Sharing the island with Irish Steel, subsequently Irish Ispat, the navy expressed their worries in writing before and after the steel plant closed down in June of 2001.
Just one month before the jobs were lost and the doors closed for the last time on a working facility, a naval officer questioned who would end up paying for the “proper decommissioning” of the plant and the subsequent clean-up.
“In the interest of the health of Naval Service personnel, the plant, and its associated tip-head, cannot be left in its present condition if Ispat fails to properly decommission its facilities in the event of closure,” wrote the officer.
Within a month, that predicted closure came to pass.
By early July, the same officer was writing about various issues affecting the navy, such as roadway maintenance in the Haulbowline area, ground maintenance, berthage at the west wall of the island, and recovery of the area leased to Ispat as part of the government deal. However, also of interest to the Naval Service, according to this letter, were the potential hazards borne by the sea breezes.
“The Naval Service continues to suffer from the health and safety hazards of toxic dusts, lifted by the wind from sites where such dusts were deposited by Irish Ispat. These sites are in both their production facility and the landfill site. These toxic dusts are lifted from the deposition sites by the wind, particularly in dry weather, and are deposited on Service personnel, civilian employees, contractors whilst they are in their place of work and accommodation.”
The Naval Service was represented at creditors’ meetings following the winding-up of steel operations at Haulbowline, and quickly realised that there was no funding available from Irish Ispat to clear up “this environmental, health and safety hazard”.