Campaigners claim risk zone around planned incinerator chimney stack underestimated

The company planning to build a 240,000-tonne capacity incinerator in Cork Harbour has grossly underestimated the risk zone around its chimney stack, local campaigners have claimed.

The Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE) makes the claim in a detailed submission to An Bórd Pleanála as part of its ongoing assessment of waste management firm Indaver’s application for the controversial €160m incinerator proposed for a site near the Irish Naval Service headquarters in Haulbowline.

Following an oral hearing last year, the planning appeals board was due to issue its decision last March.

But it deferred a decision for a fourth time to seek further information from Indaver on the project’s impact on helicopter operations into and out of the naval base.

Indaver also had to supply new dioxin figures after it emerged on the final day of the oral hearing that there were incorrect figures in two appendices to its environmental impact statement.

The company blamed a ‘transcription error’ for the inaccuracies.

The closing date for submissions on Indaver’s new material was last Friday and in a statement yesterday, CHASE said they have submitted a “forensic analysis” of the new material.

They said Indaver has included “a gross underestimation by 47-metres” of the vertical emissions dispersal zone, and the associated risk zone to helicopters, around the incinerator’s chimney stack.

Indaver’s consultants have argued that the high-risk plume zone will extend to 3.5-metres both horizontally and vertically around the stack.

But CHASE said its modelling, based on figures in Indaver’s own EIS and weather data from the Roche’s Point weather station, shows the danger zone for helicopters from the incinerator plume will actually extend up to 61-metres, or 430ft, vertically.  

They said using this height and applying the Department of Defence recommended “standard obstacle clearance height of 500ft”, the minimum safe height above the stack for helicopters is 930ft, which is consistent with the Department of Defence conclusion that a 1,000ft avoidance zone is required.

The department told last year’s oral hearing that it would be reckless to operate an aircraft anywhere close to that high-risk zone.

CHASE also said the company’s comparisons with a helicopter landing base near a UK naval base fails to mention that helicopter operations there ceased in 2012 - three years before a nearby incinerator became operational.

CHASE further criticised Indaver’s dioxin figures and said no robust explanation, other than ‘transcription errors’ has been offered to explain the inaccurate dioxin figures exposed during the oral hearing.

CHASE chairperson Mary O’Leary said it is a cornerstone of the entire planning system that the information submitted by a developer must be true.  

“That cornerstone has been shattered in this case and it would be outrageous to grant permission or scope for any further clarification in these circumstances,” she said.

“It is time to reject this application once and for all, allow Cork Harbour to reach its full potential.”

In a statement, Indaver said its submissions to the planning appeals board has explained the administrative error which led to the inaccurate dioxin figures.

But it said the conclusions of the EIS remain unchanged and insisted that the proposed development will have no significant impact on human health.

The company said it has undertaken a rigorous review of the concerns raised by the Department of Defence about helicopter operations in the area.

“As part of the review, a number of experts were consulted and they concluded that Indaver’s proposed Ringaskiddy Resource Recovery Centre will not curtail, constrain or, indeed, have any effect on the safety of helicopter operations at Haulbowline naval base,” it said.

“As I have said from the outset, we are confident that our proposed facility is fully in line with regional, national and EU waste policy,” Indaver managing director, John Ahern, said.

“From a local point of view, most of Cork’s residual waste is sent to waste management facilities elsewhere in the country or is exported abroad. 

“Therefore it’s clear that there’s a need for a suitable, sustainable waste solution for Cork and the wider southern region.”

An Bórd Pleanála is expected to make a decision on the project next month.


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