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No to Toxic Waste Incinerators for Cork Harbour
Stop the Burn say C.H.A.S.E.
Why is it that Irish governments are addicted to importing ideas long recognised as abject failures - even in the countries in which they originate?
For the last 20 years, for instance, US authorities and industries have been abandoning the use of incinerators as a form of waste management because of the severity of the health and environmental damage they most definitely cause. Local populations in the US have defeated more than 300 incinerator proposals and the industry is now virtually extinct there. About 500 have been shut down in Japan – a country that has traditionally been heavily reliant on incineration. In Europe, according to a report by the Global Anti Incinerator Alliance, the emphasis has been on using alternative waste management techniques which in the most successful cases have resulted in an actual reduction in the amount of waste needing disposal – despite growing populations.
But Paddy is always anxious to make a big fool of himself. During that same period in Ireland, naturally, we have built commercial and other incinerators around our small country as if they were going out of style – which of course they are - and in spite of ferocious opposition to them from virtually every community in which they have been sited. In a country this size and in the context of all that is known about their dangers this is – or should be – a matter of national outrage. Nevertheless, our government is again (greetings to the 5) smirking, flirting and generally prostituting itself to another rapacious industry by facilitating a deal that will surely injure health and kill many people in this country if it is allowed to go ahead. As with the Dutch and Norwegian oil companies in Mayo (Shell and Statoil), Indaver in Belgium must not be able to believe their luck. No other European country is allowing them to do as they are doing in Ireland.
The Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE) has been campaigning against the development of not one, but two, large toxic/hazardous waste incinerators at Ringaskiddy in Co Cork by a company calling itself Indaver Ireland – a ‘subsidiary’ of the Belgian parent company. Support for CHASE has been gathering momentum in communities and towns all around the harbour and further afield during the last four years. The city itself is just minutes as the crow flies from the proposed site of the incinerators. In January 2004, without any investigation into the significance for their health of the local population - and in defiance of World Health Organisation guidelines, its own planning authority inspector and a petition presented by CHASE (signed by no fewer than 30K people and unprecedented in the history of planning objections) - nine of the ten un-elected and unaccountable government appointees at An Bord Pleanala overturned an earlier rejection of the proposal by Cork County Council. The Board’s members, who have no experience of incineration waste management, ignored the rejection of the incinerator plan by their own inspector, Mr Philip Jones, on 14 different planning grounds. The only evidence the Board appeared to accept was that of Indaver - who stand to make immense profits if they are allowed to proceed. Vested interests ride again.
In October 2004 the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft licence to Indaver. The EPA is an agency with a worrying track record on monitoring and responding to environmental threats – not least of which was a recent spill of 260 tonnes of caustic soda into Cork Harbour. It was not until several weeks later that the public discovered about it – by accident. The EPA itself, despite not having even been notified by the company in question at the time of the spill, was ‘satisfied’ there was no risk to public health and nothing untoward in its emergency policies and processes. Staggeringly, the agency had decided there was no necessity to alert the public. Unaware of the potential danger to them, a large group of children began a sailing course in the same part of the harbour in which the spill occurred just two days later. There have been numerous other incidents raising all the same concerns. This, then, is the agency who are entrusted with protecting our environment and who are falling over themselves to insist that incineration is safe. In a wonderful example of self-serving logic, the Director General of the EPA, Dr Mary Kelly (formerly of IBEC fame) has cited the EPA’s earlier approval of three smaller incinerators in the harbour (already in operation) as evidence for their safety! ‘I approve therefore I am’ must be their motto. This is the same Mary Kelly who apparently saw no conflict of interest in the appointment of Ms Laura Burke, a former Project Manager at Indaver, as a Director of the EPA – three months before the draft licence to Indaver was granted. We are assured that Ms Burke is ‘not involved in any decision’ relating to the Indaver incinerators. And I can see pigs flying in the sky as I type.
Perhaps emboldened by the sheer brass neck of the EPA and An Bord Pleanala, Mr Dick Roche, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, is now looking at ways of ‘improving’ the planning process so as, presumably, to make it less embarrassing for his colleagues and their corporate chums to do this sort of thing in future - and even less accountable than they already are. That would certainly be consistent with Bertie Ahern’s now infamous observation in China (a country not exactly renowned for its record on democracy, justice and human rights) that he:
‘would like to have the power of the Mayor [of Shanghai]…I would just like that we can get through the consultation problem as quickly as possible’. (Jan 2005)
There it is, plain as day. He must have thought we couldn’t hear him from China. Why is consultation with his own citizens ‘a problem’ for the foremost, elected people’s representative of Ireland? Will the Belgian company’s plans for Cork Harbour ultimately go through on the nod?
This article can scarcely do justice to the multiple considerations which the incinerator proposal raises. CHASE have an excellent, user-friendly website which carries comprehensive information about every aspect of the project – including environmental data, legal and planning issues, press reports, various links to similar campaigns in other countries, and more besides. Anyone who lives in the ‘catchment area’ of an incinerator (which must be virtually everyone in the country by now) should visit the CHASE website.
A summary of some of the alarming facts about hazardous waste incineration (which neither the government nor Indaver will ever tell you about) is given below: