An environmental lobby group is warning that cutbacks or delays to the proposed clean-up of a toxic waste dump in Cork Harbour would breach a legal agreement between Ireland and the European Commission (EC).
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) say this is made apparent by files released to it by the EC. FIE made the comment following a recent government suggestion that the cost of the clean-up on Haulbowline Island might not be warranted.
FIE lodged its original complaint about the toxic dump with the EC in 2009.
Following the EC’s intervention, an agreement was made with the Government the following year to make safe the nine-hectare site on the island’s East Tip.
However, FIE objected to the failure to include the remainder of the 21 hectares on the island at a meeting with EC, the Department of the Environment, and Cork County Council at the site in November, 2011.
At the time, FIE argued that “tests from the old Irish Steel/Irish Ispat site show levels of contamination that are actually higher for some dangerous substances than found on the East Tip”.
On July 15 last year the Department of Agriculture wrote to the EC stating that the Government had changed its position. The original €40m was increased to €61m and remediation was to be based on a “whole-island” approach.
As reported recently in the Irish Examiner, briefing documents for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, however, show his officials have questioned proposals to spend €40m on the Haulbowline site next year.
A possible row-back on making the whole island safe has caused considerable anger amongst local public representatives and PDforra, which represents the majority of the 1,000-strong naval service force based at its headquarters on Haulbowline Island.
The PDforra deputy president, Mark Keane, said the Government has a duty to protect the health of the service personnel based on the island and has to ensure everything is done as speedily as possible to make the area safe. Earlier this week, members of the county council’s Cobh/Glanmire municipal district also expressed concern about a possible downgrading of the clean-up plan.
At the request of Cllr Cathal Rasmussen, they are writing to the government seeking clarification on its stance.
“We must look for guarantees for the site to be cleaned as promised by the last Government and with the specific timelines agreed,” said Cllr Rasmussen.
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