Government accused of hiding problem to avoid huge costs

THE Government has been accused of hiding the problem of toxic waste buried at the Irish steel site in Cork harbour because they did not want to pay the high cost of the clean up operation.

Yesterday’s Irish Examiner revealed that the Department of the Environment had told a sub-contracting firm involved in cleaning up the site to “cap” lagoons containing toxic waste, rather than removing 500,000 tonnes of dangerous material.

Local Labour TD, Sean Sherlock told the Dáil last night that the department’s action was motivated by the estimated €300 million to fully clean up the site

“Their intention was never to expend the funds that are necessary to clean up the site and make it safe for those people who reside and work within the vicinity,” he said.

He was speaking at a special Dáil debate called last night following a morning of criticism from the opposition.

David Stanton of Fine Gael said that the issue of waste contamination at the old Irish Steel site had been raised for several years in the Dáil. “I’m absolutely furious over this. It’s appalling what has gone on,” he said.

Party colleague Deirdre Clune described it as “a serious scandal” involving allegations that the government ranked budget considerations above public health.

“The allegation that Minister Gormley’s department was planning to allow hazardous waste, including the carcinogenic chromium 6, to remain untreated in the centre of a highly-populated area is an allegation that the minister cannot be allowed to ignore,” she said.

She called on the government to set a timetable for the removal of “this cauldron of toxic and carcinogenic substances”.

She said that Minister John Gormley’s Green Party values had “sold out to Fianna Fáil in return for ministerial Mercs and political perks”.

Mr Sherlock and Labour’s Ciaran Lynch issued a joint statement saying it was “no wonder that members of local communities” had become alarmed.

“It should be remembered that this site contains hazardous substances such as mercury, lead and chromium 6, the second most carcinogenic substance known,” they said.

“This fiasco has been mismanaged from the off and it would seem that nobody — not the Environmental Protection Agency, not the county council, and certainly not John Gormley’s department has had a handle on this process.

“In the meantime, this waste is posing an extreme hazard to people who live and work in the locality, and must be cleared up as a matter of utmost urgency.”

Cork-based senator Jerry Buttimer described the allegations as “beyond belief” and accused the government of showing “utter disregard” for the environment by suggesting the capping of the hazardous waste lagoons.

“I have called for a Seanad debate at the earliest convenience so that the extent of what is going on here can be determined.

“These lethal carcinogens must be removed from the area and disposed of with the utmost care and consideration. An explanation is needed immediately,” Mr Buttimer said.


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