PEOPLE living near a toxic waste site in Cork harbour have suffered enough from a disgraceful issue that must be dealt with sooner rather than later, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has said.
However, he refused to take responsibility for the former Irish Steel site in Haulbowline, saying it is a matter for the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is carrying out a report on the matter.
Speaking in Cork, the minister said the OPW’s report will be available in the next few weeks, and once he gets a copy he will be able to make a statement on the way forward.
He said cleaning up the site will cost a lot of money and resources and there are no fast solutions.
“I’d like to see it sorted and cleaned up,” he said.
“The local people have suffered enough with this disgraceful site, this is a legacy issue that has to be dealt with sooner rather than later.”
Last month the Government was given three months to take action to clean up the toxic site in Haulbowline or be taken to court by the European Commission.
The site, which local campaigners have linked with the area having one of the highest incidences of cancers in the country, has been the subject of five reports, has cost the state €50 million — mostly in legal costs — over the past 15 years, but still has not been cleaned up.
Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly has been pushing the issue in Europe and while the minister commended this, he said he not spoken to Mr Kelly about the situation as Mr Kelly “had not rang him” about it.
Addressing the issue of the Bottle Hill landfill site — a project on which €46m was spent — the minister said he didn’t see a need for it into the future.
“EU directives oblige us to reduce our dependence on landfill significantly.
“This project is going on since 1995 and it has been slow and torturous for the local authority, but it is up to them to look at it and decide what to do, but we have to fulfil our obligations to divert away from landfill,” he said.
Mr Hogan said he could not comment on the issue of the Ringaskiddy incinerator, which was the subject of a recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling.
In March, the ECJ ruled Ireland is in breach of an EU directive setting out how developments are assessed for likely environmental effects before planning permission is granted.
An Bord Pleanála is currently considering revised plans put forward by Indaver, which wants to build the waste facility.
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