Incinerator health impact ‘not explained’ says specialist

Anthony Staines, professor of health systems at Dublin City University

Nothing in the environmental impact statement (EIS) accompanying Indaver Ireland’s planning application to build an incinerator in Ringaskiddy adequately explains the health impact it could have, according to a specialist in public health.

In a highly critical analysis of the waste management company’s health impact assessment (HIA), Anthony Staines, professor of health systems at Dublin City University, said its authors “do not appear to be familiar with HIA processes, although the document is entitled ‘health impact assessment’.”

“What has been done in this report is not any recognised form of HIA. Nor is it a proper data-based risk assessment,”said Prof Staines.

Speaking on behalf of the environmental group Chase (Cork Harbour Area for a Safe Environment) on day seven of the Ringaskiddy incinerator oral hearing, Prof Staines, an expert in environmental epidemiology, said he could see “no documentation that shows quantification of risk, only lots of documentation that says it cannot be done”.

However, there is no reason why a proper HIA could not be done, he said, adding that “data sources, though lacking, are certainly adequate to support such an assessment”.

Prof Staines contrasted the in-depth evaluation that had been done on the Natura protected areas, where a systematic view of the effects of heavy minerals on animal species compared unfairly to the evaluation of the effects on human health. He said he would expect the same depth of evaluation to be given to human health.

Prof Staines said there was “no risk assessment in the HIA, and as the name suggests, a core part of a HIA is a risk assessment”.

Rory Mulcahy, counsel for Indaver, said what was set out in its assessment was “in accordance with best practice”.

Dr Martin Hogan, occupational health specialist and expert witness on behalf of Indaver, said the sections of the report referred to by Prof Staines were not representative of the entire EIS, “a large document” he did not wish to make “even larger” by reinstating large portions of information contained in other chapters.

Dr Hogan previously told An Bord Pleanála’s hearing that extensive modelling and experience with similar facilities meant “we can be confident that there will be negligible impact on human health of the proposed facility”.

In a separate submission, Monkstown resident Bob McLaughlin said he had concerns about the manner in which An Bord Pleanála operates.

Bob McLaughlin
Bob McLaughlin

He said while the inspector who presided over an oral hearing heard all views first hand and formed an opinion based on those views, the ultimate decision on a planning application, which may or may not accord with the inspector’s recommendation, was made by the board, “who never attended the hearing”.

Bernadette Connolly, development co-ordinator with Cork Environmental Forum, said incineration poses a “risk on many fronts”.

Bernadette Connolly, Corl Environmental Forum
Bernadette Connolly, Corl Environmental Forum

“It will negate efforts to date to bring about behavioural change, waste prevention and increase preferred options on the waste hierarchy. The risk is also about Ireland lagging behind and losing out on the opportunity that exists for resource recovery and waste prevention,” she said.

The hearing continues.


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