Cork residents have ‘no faith’ in Indaver fire safety plans

Residents of Cork’s lower harbour have “no faith” in Indaver to ensure a proposed incinerator would be safe in the event of an explosion or fire.

As the Bord Pleanála oral hearing continued in Carrigaline yesterday, a number of local residents raised their concerns about how Indaver would handle an explosion in Cork.

The company had been faced with an explosion in Belgium earlier in February after a fire broke out at the company’s Antwerp plant when a tanker exploded.

Indaver’s crisis management team intervened and had all 117 staff off site before the fire broke out. The fire was extinguished within four hours, preventing a major crisis.

Indaver said plans for the proposed Ringaskiddy site have taken into account a number of “worst-case scenario” events, and while they do not anticipate them, they are prepared.

Objectors were concerned if a fire broke out, the run off from water used to fight it could pick up contaminants and move them outside the Indaver site.

However, the company said while similar concerns existed in Antwerp, the water used there was collected, gathered into a safe site, assessed, and processed within a few days.

Indaver also clarified a fire safety plan would be put in place on site, with a fire safety officer ensuring it met all relevant safety regulations.

However, the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) said it had “no faith” in Indaver to ensure safety at the site.

Mary O’Leary said residents were concerned by some of the events Indaver were preparing for: “They have modelled for a six-day fire where they would possibly have to move people from the local area. That has huge implications for people, and things like the Haulbowline navy base.”

She said the company’s experts had failed to convince locals the plant would be safe.

“We don’t feel any safer now than we did at the beginning. They haven’t proven themselves.”

One objector also raised the question of possible contamination from water used to cool the ash generated by the incinerator but Indaver’s John Ahern clarified dry ash would absorb the water, creating a “wet sand” that would be taken off site to be deposited at licensed landfills. One of those may be Bottlehill.

John Ahern
John Ahern

After three weeks, a number of locals and expert witnesses have limited time to attend the hearing during the question phase that is ongoing.

This has caused tension between both sides as experts are unavailable to clarify and defend the statements they read into the record at the start of the process.

“People from the community are taking time out to come here, and the experts paid to be here aren’t,” said Una Chambers.

“They have to give up days again to come in. Inspector, can’t you see that it’s unfair and unjust?”

The future of Gobby Beach was also queried. Indaver said it would need to put sacrificial beach material on site in order to prevent coastal erosion. This will initially take three weeks, and would need to be replenished periodically, but it was not clear what kind of access the public would have to the popular strand.

“What gives Indaver the right to take the beach away from the community?” said one objector.

The issue will be raised again on Monday when Indaver’s expert witness on coastal erosion is available to answer questions.

Today, the Defence Forces will raise their concerns, due to the proximity of the proposed incinerator to Haulbowline.


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