Cork Harbour leak fears after toxic dump breach

Fears have been expressed that defences erected around a toxic dump were breached during the recent hurricane, releasing potentially harmful chemicals into Cork harbour.

Cork County Council is carrying out an investigation into the claims after two councillors based in Cobh said they’d seen a breach in embankments on the northern site of the East Tip on Haulbowline Island.

The existence of the dump, which is adjacent to the former Irish Steel/Irish Ispat plant, was revealed by the Irish Examiner in the summer of 2008. It contained a number of heavy metals and traces of the highly carcinogenic Chromium 6.

The embankments were subsequently erected to prevent sea water flowing in and out of the site and contaminating Cork harbour.

However, Cllrs Sean O’Connor (Ind) and Cathal Rasmussen (Lab) say part of the embankment has fallen away and recent high tides, accompanied by hurricane force winds, have resulted in sea water flowing in and out of the dump.

“I live right opposite the northern embankment and have seen the water flow in and out. I’m fearful that there may be toxic materials flowing into the harbour as a result. It is imperative in the short-term that this be addressed,” Cllr Rasmussen said.

Cllr O’Connor said not enough was being done to prevent spillage from the site.

“At the former steel plant at Ravenscraig in Scotland (which closed in 1992) they have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that no ground water or rain water gets out of the site unless it’s properly treated. The same thing should be done in Haulbowline.”

Acting county manager Declan Daly has promised to have the claims investigated.

He said further tests for potentially harmful substances also had to be carried out on the site of the former steel works.

It’s expected the contract for that project will be awarded shortly and Mr Daly said it was likely to take six to nine months to complete the work.

In the meantime, the council is also awaiting a decision from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a waste licence application for the site.

It has also lodged a planning application with Bord Pleanála for a clean-up of the site and its possible transformation into an amenity area. A decision is due on April 24.

“Unfortunately I’m not in a position to give a timeframe for all the work. Bord Pleanála may decide to hold an oral hearing. That’s out of our hands,” Mr Daly said.

He added, while €40 million had already been ring-fenced to make the site safe, he didn’t know if it would be sufficient.


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