No action yet on future of toxic waste dump

DESPITE convening four times and conducting two site visits in nine months, a taskforce to decide the future of a toxic waste dump still has not made its recommendations.

The Government had repeatedly promised the taskforce — which did not have the remit to look at the dump’s remediation — would finalise its report on Haulbowline by the end of last year.

Deputy David Stanton accused the Government of deliberately stalling on releasing the recommendations, and it would be left to the next administration to address the future of the toxic waste dump in Cork harbour.

“I am very disappointed that the report still hasn’t been made available,” he said, “despite repeated promises from the Government. The last time I asked a (Dáil) question on this I was told the report would be completed shortly.”

In reply to a Dáil question, Martin Mansergh, Mnister in charge of the OPW, said the taskforce met on April 5, May 31, November 4 and December 16 last year.

He confirmed taskforce members also visited the dump which contained the highly carcinogenic Chromium 6. The visits were on May 31 and October 11 last and its chairman also held meetings with a number of “stakeholders” on September 1 and October 11.

“The group surely has had ample time to complete its report,” the Fine Gael TD for Cork East said. “I believe the tactic is to drag this out until after the election and then land it on somebody else’s lap,” he said.

Mr Stanton said that if he was re-elected and if, as expected, Fine Gael led the next Government, then he would urge his leader Enda Kenny to fast-track the report.

“The problem is we don’t know what we are going to be dealing with. As I see it there are two options. Either we clean it up completely or we try and seal it to make it safe,” the deputy said.

He again criticised the fact the Government hadn’t decided to address the site’s remediation and calls to implement a health study in the lower harbour where cancer rates are very high.

The existence of the dump was disclosed by the Irish Examiner in June 2008. Shortly afterwards Minister for the Environment John Gormley told locals in Cobh he was in favour of a baseline health study being carried out on the population of the lower harbour.

However, amid much anger, he was overruled by Minister for Health Mary Harney.

Mr Stanton said around €50m had already been spent on work at the toxic dump site.

“I will also be looking for a breakdown of exactly what the money has been spent on,” he said.

He admitted that cleaning up the site would be very expensive and the Government had “left very little in the kitty”.

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