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Public has a right to know about toxic dust and lead emissions

category national | environment | press release author Tuesday May 28, 2019 10:21author by foie - Friends of the Irish Environment Report this post to the editors

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment May 2019

State must notify public of Haulbowline contamination or face High Court

The State must erect signage at the entrance to Haulbowline Island and the new East Tip park notifying the public of the health risk from toxic airborne dust, fibres, and gases within 28 days or face the High Court for failing to fulfil its obligations under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations.

PRESS RELEASE

ISSUED BY FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT

State must notify public of Haulbowline contamination or face High Court

The State must erect signage at the entrance to Haulbowline Island and the new East Tip park notifying the public of the health risk from toxic airborne dust, fibres, and gases within 28 days or face the High Court for failing to fulfil its obligations under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations.

The environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment’s solicitor FP Logue issued letters to Leo Varadkar, Michael Creed, and Cork County Council’s Chief Executive officer on Friday evening. The letters come after FIE obtained and published on its website earlier this week a March 2017 Report which detailed imminent threats to human health and safety from the unremediated steel factory site on Haulbowline Island.

FIE obtained the report after Cork County Council, who commissioned the Report from WYG Northern Ireland as agents for The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine, who own the island, told the organisation that they held no records relating to the clean-up of the steel site. The Department subsequently released the Report to FIE.

The State has completed the remediation of the 9 hectare East Tip and agreed with the European Commission in 2015 that €61m would be ring fenced for an ‘all-island’ clean up as part of the settlement of a 2005 Waste Case judgment by the European Court of Justice against Ireland. However, work has now finished on the 9 hectare East Tip but no applications have been made to the EPA for a licence to clean up the remaining 11 hectares of the Steel site itself although this area shows the highest levels of some heavy metals like chromium.

Significant risk to human health
The Report, dated 10 April 2017, contained a Generic Quantitative Risk Assessment which records cadmium, chromium, chromium VI, copper, lead, zinc and mercury concentrations exceeding relevant standards which ‘are consequently considered to pose a significant risk to human health for future site users’. The Report states that arsenic, lead, asbestos fibres and PCBs from the steel site may be ingested through inhalation of dust and soil in the absence of a surface clean-up for the remaining 11 hectare steel site promised by successive Ministers.

The letter states that:
‘In light of the information available it is clear that there is a serious imminent threat to human health and the environment at least in relation to the risks identified in the WYG Report. In particular, there is a threat to the health of occupants of the security hut and users of the part of the roadway which crosses the Factory Site. There is also a risk to users of other parts of the island for recreational and military uses through dust, fibre and gas emission from the Factory Site.’

Impact on Cork Harbour flora and fauna
Cadmium, chromium, chromium VI, copper, zinc, manganese, mercury and nickel concentrations are ‘considered to be contaminants of concern with the potential to impact Cork Harbour waters’ identified as the ‘primary receptor in regard to potential contamination migration’. Hydrocarbons from hotspots are identified as capable of impacting on ‘flora and fauna in Cork Harbour and on the foreshore’. A recovery system involving skimmers is proposed to address the risks to the Harbour and human health from hydrocarbons. The dissolved metal concentrations in the groundwater have not lessened over the last ten years with lead leaking into the harbour from broken drains.

Neither the Department of Agriculture nor County Council have provided to media enquiries a reason for their failure to make the Report available. Simon Coveney, the then Minister for Agriculture, was asked to submit an application to the Environmental Protection Agency to regularise the status of the East Tip and chair a steering committee of stakeholders to oversee the process.

Director Tony Lowes, who first reported the pollution to the European Commission in 2009, said “The abandoned steel works continues to pose a serious threat to human health and the environment in Cork. The Access to Information in the Environment Regulations require public authorities, in the case of imminent threats to human health or the environment, to ensure that all information held by or for them which could enable the public affected to take measure to prevent or mitigate harm, is disseminated immediately and without delay’.

'The public has a right to know about toxic dust and lead emissions into the air and water around the island so they can decide for themselves what precautions to take. It is irresponsible for the Council and the government to bury reports that assess these risks giving the impression that environment around Haulbowline is now safe when the most contaminated parts of the old steel works remain exposed to wind and rain.”

ENDS
Contacts:
Fred Logue 087 1316023 (solicitor)
Tony Lowes +353 (0)27 74771 / +353 (0)87 2176316
Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (Irish language) +353 (0)87 6178852

Report: ‘Former Haulbowline Factory, Haulbowline Island, Cork’, March, 2017. Warning: 124 MB
https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/Haulbowline/R_DQRAFormerHaulbowlineFactory170420.pdf

Link to FIE’s original Report: Toxic Island 2009
https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/attachments/article/16464/toxic_island.pdf

The Times May 21, 2019
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/steelworks-waste-risks-health-of-park-visitors-q8rb8s325

Simon Coveney
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/unsuitable-haulbowline-plan-given-61m-szhbxwn8m

This Press Release
https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17650-state-must-notify-public-of-haulbowline-contamination-or-face-h...court

Copyright © 2019 Friends of the Irish Environment, All rights reserved.
Press Release

Our mailing address is:
Friends of the Irish Environment
Kilcatherine
Eyeries, Cork P75 CX53
Ireland

Related Link: https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17650-state-must-notify-public-of-haulbowline-contamination-or-face-high-court
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