‘Grave concerns’ over toxic waste dump clean-up delay

The former Irish Steel site on Haulbowline Island, Co. Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

The organisation which represents the majority of the Naval Service says there can be no delay in cleaning up a toxic waste dump close to its headquarters in Cork harbour and claimed the Government has “a legal and moral obligation to safeguard those employed in the area”.

PDforra, which represents enlisted men in the navy, made the comments after it was revealed plans for a major clean-up of the former Irish Steel site on Haulbowline Island could be delayed after the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform raised concerns about the scale of expenditure on the project.

It came just months after the Department of Agriculture, which is funding the clean-up of the island, announced details of the timetable for the €61m remediation works on the nine-hectare site which is due for completion in mid-2018.

PDforra vice president Mark Keane, who works in the naval base, said his organisation would have “grave concerns” regarding any delay or reduction in money needed to clean up the toxic dump at the former steelworks site at East Tip.

Around 1,000 Naval Service personnel are based just yards from the site.

Mr Keane said PDforra told the Government it has “a legal and moral obligation” to make the site safe.

It voiced its concerns regarding the toxic dump again recently at An Bord Pleanála oral hearings into the proposed Indaver application for an incinerator in the area.

“Our members have lived and worked under the shadow of this toxic dump for far too long. This has been of grave concern to our members since 2001 with the closure of the former [Irish Ispat] steel works,” Mr Keane said.

“We have voiced our concerns since then when the highly carcinogenic Chromium 6 was discovered on this site. We are calling on the Department of Defence and the Government to honour previous assurances given by Simon Coveney, the then Minister for Defence, at our annual delegate conference last October that money would be made available to implement the required works to render this site safe,” Mr Keane said.

He said that PDforra is willing to engage with all stakeholders to see clean-up project come to conclusion.

Mr Keane added that any delay in the clean-up could also have an negative impact on plans to redevelop the lower harbour area as a major tourist attraction.

“Because of this and possible health implications, we feel the stakes are too high for any watering down of these proposals, or indeed any delay in implementing this much needed clean-up. Time is of the essence and we can’t allow a situation to develop where we are playing Russian roulette with our members’ health,” Mr Keane said.


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