Concerns have been raised over the speed, cost, and the number of housing units that can be built under a plan to fast-track the construction of 3,000 homes in the Dublin Docklands area because of the potential threat of harmful landfill gases emitted on the derelict lands.
Two weeks ago, Dublin City Council hailed the authorisation by Simon Coveney, the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government, to designate the Poolbeg West lands as a strategic development zone.
The plan envisages fast-tracking the development of homes across a large swathe of the Poolbeg peninsula in the south-east of the city.
Dublin City has said it expected to kick-start the planning process this year as part of the bid to solve the country’s housing crisis.
However, warnings first issued in 2009 have been reiterated after an investigation by the Irish Examiner into the legacy of the 34 hectares of the Poolbeg West lands, used since 1948 as a major tip for Dublin municipal waste.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the independent government body — monitored the clean-up of the industrial wastes on a key part of the Poolbeg West lands — the so-called Irish Glass Bottle site up to 2009.
The findings of the 2009 report, which have not previously been widely publicised, show the EPA senior inspector found “no indication of contamination” left over from the manufacturing of glass bottles. However, the report highlighted potential challenges over building certain types of homes on the site.
“Landfill gas emissions where observed on site will require suitable engineering design by developers for gas mitigation and control at design stage,” said the report.
“Development of low-density housing with gardens directly on top of the site would present a risk from ground gas. This may be difficult to resolve with engineering measures.
“However, the development of buildings with ventilated lower floors raised above ground level would be more acceptable and established engineering methods could be used to bring this risk within acceptable levels.”
The 2009 report then raised issues about lands beyond the Glass Bottle site.
“Waste deposits are present beyond the boundary of the Becbay property [the Glass Bottle site]. Even if all remnants of the landfill material were removed from the site, the buildings would require soil gas barrier systems to protect new buildings from undisturbed landfill in adjoining areas,” said the report.
Malcolm Doak, a leading hydrogeologist, who had lodged an objection regarding the Glass Bottle site to the EPA as the agency completed its monitoring of the site in 2009, said the same risks that existed with methane and other gas pollutants seven years ago still exist at the Glass Bottle site and at other areas on the Poolbeg peninsula.
Mr Doak had previously worked as an EPA inspector.
“What needs to be done is a comprehensive assessment of all the lands, which will take at least a year,” Mr Doak said when contacted by the Irish Examiner this week. He doubts, however, the lands can be easily developed, because of the landfill waste.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who has reviewed the 2009 report, said: “We have got to get the planning right and this includes finding how to manage the gasses from the waste dump.
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“You cannot ignore what the EPA is saying. It does not indicate that this is an easy site to develop.”
A Dublin City Council spokesman said: “We do not have concerns about the concept of residential building on the Glass Bottle site as any remediation works required to deal with the landfill legacy issues, would, of course, be duly undertaken in advance of any construction.
“We are not in a position to elaborate any further on this at this stage.”
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