A LEADING environmental group has warned the Government will inevitably face court actions over the hazardous waste dump at the former Irish Steel site in Cork harbour.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) predicted medical claims will be lodged by locals on grounds the community’s health was put at risk when the steel plant was in operation. They warned that others are likely to sue the State for its failure to ensure toxic byproducts were disposed of properly.
The conclusion of its Toxic Island report, published yesterday, stated that the contractor, who was commissioned by the Department of the Environment (DOE) to clean up the site, could seek an action at the Commercial Court over the terms of the termination of his contract.
The contractor, who was publicly critical of the Government’s decision to leave waste at the site, had his contract terminated by the DOE on the grounds that he had carried out unauthorised activity which “posed an environmental threat”. In the report, FIE reiterated its assertion last summer that levels of chromium 6 — the second most dangerous carcinogen — were so high in one shipment to Germany that a laboratory refused to landfill the material.
The 112,000 tonnes of hazardous waste shipped to Germany also showed highly toxic substances such as hydrocarbons and other oil and bimetal products, they alleged.
They also published yesterday tests which showed the levels of heavy metals at the East Tip of the island were far in excess of what Irish law permits. FIE say that despite repeated requests, the DOE, which has copies of these tests, will not make them available under Freedom of Information.
In the report FIE also said the site is in flagrant disregard of its 1983 foreshore licence, which said no waste should be dumped on the reclaimed land.
Last summer, the department was accused by FIE and the clean-up contractor of covering up the full extent of the hazardous waste dump by ordering the contractor to “cap” lagoons containing the waste rather than remove the 500,000 tonnes of potentially lethal material.
However, a report published by the Department of the Environment last December said the toxic waste dump posed no identifiable threat to local residents.
The report’s authors, White Young Green consultants, found toxins such as chromium in and around the waste dump, known as the East Tip, but not at levels considered dangerous to humans.
However, their report said that chromium in mussels found around Haulbowline exceeded recommended limits, but the cause could not be identified. They recommended that this issue be further investigated.
Tony Lowes of FIE last night said that the future of Haulbowline should not lie with the DOE.
“We believe that the future of Haulbowline must be taken away from ministers and the cabinet and returned to the Environmental Protection Agency and the local authority. The Minister for the Environment is a judge in his own cause as he is a part of the Government which owns the site as well as the minister determining the extent and so the cost of the clean-up.
“It is a principle of natural justice that no person can judge a case in which he or she is a party,” said Mr Lowes.
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