The proposed incinerator in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, could drive sports out of the harbour, according to local clubs.
Speaking on behalf of an umbrella body of sports groups in Cobh, Don Ryan said hundreds of people use the harbour for sports — both in the water and on the land around it.
He said emissions from the Indaver incinerator could pose health risks, drive international visitors away, and discourage locals from playing sports outside.
“We have grave concerns in relation to this project,” he said. “We are less than a mile away from where this is proposed for. Most of our playing areas are on high ground and we would be worried about dust particles and gases, and of course the water in the harbour.”
Hundreds of people use the area for sports, from children to older people, and local sports groups fear a drop in numbers if the incinerator goes ahead.
“The last thing we want is something like this to discourage parents from sending their children out,” he said.
Mr Ryan believes the area is becoming a destination for sports, and is hosting the Olympic National Series for triathlons in September. This growing reputation will be put at risk if incineration is taking place close by, he fears: “What we’re trying to do is showcase that we have a unique spot for swimming in the harbour, and cycling and running around the island.”
Mr Ryan’s concerns followed a day spent discussing the health impacts of the incinerator, focusing on ‘nano-particles’ being released into the air.
Toxico-pathologist and nano-particulate expert Vyvyan Howard said “chronic low-dose exposure to ultra fine particles reduces life expectancy”, and cited several published studies which show that “filters are not capable of arresting these particles” which “pass through any filtration system undetected” and also warned that statutory limits are not protective.
Prof Howard explained that organic compounds such as dioxin and dioxin-like compounds form tiny particles which become highly reactive because they become highly crystallised and charged.
He described how nano- particles are about the same size as viruses and travel around the body, passing through air and blood to be assimilated into the bloodstream where they travel to other organs. He stated that small cumulative portions cause low-grade chronic inflammation resulting in chronic respiratory disease; and over time attack the lining of the arteries causing cardiovascular issues.
Prof Howard cited small children as being more vulnerable to this effect than adults, because they breathe more air per unit of body weight, and “have smaller airways which means they need less inflammation to induce turbulence, i.e. asthma”.
Looking for clarification on the issue of defined guide levels for tiny particles, oral hearing inspector Derek Daly asked: “Are there defined safe levels in relation to humans?”.
Prof Howard clarified: “No, there are not.”
However, Indaver dispute this, referring to baseline air tests carried out by Edward Porter, director of air quality and climate at AWN Consulting.
Dr Porter’s studies established that no adverse impact on public health or the environment, including the Cork Harbour SPA, is envisaged to occur at or beyond the facility boundary during the construction phase.
Modelling results indicate that the ambient ground level concentrations will be below the relevant air quality standards for the protection of human health for all parameters under maximum and abnormal operation of the facility.
Therefore, no adverse impact on public health or the environment, including the Cork Harbour SPA, is envisaged to occur at or beyond the facility boundary during the operation phase.
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