Announcement ‘imminent’ on use of Irish Steel site

EXACTLY 10 years ago, the steel industry died in Cork Harbour leaving a toxic legacy which, according to a government TD, is about to be finally resolved.

Irish Ispat, formally Irish Steel, ceased trading on June 15, 2001 with the loss of 450 jobs.

Some of the workers there had spent a lifetime in the plant at Haulbowline.

However, three years ago, it was acknowledged that sludge which emanated from the plant contained a number of toxic heavy metals and the deadly carcinogen Chromium 6.

Millions of euro were spent cleaning up the site.

Fine Gael TD David Stanton said Environment Minister Phil Hogan was examining a report he had received from a working group established under the auspices of the OPW, which was making recommendations on the future use of the site.

“I am told an announcement on that is imminent,” Mr Stanton said.

The Cork East TD said he also expected a report by the country’s chief medical officer into the high incidence of cancer in the Cobh area would be announced shortly.

Irish Steel was founded in 1939 but ran into financial trouble in the 1990s. In 1995, the Rainbow Government sold the business to Indian-born steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal for £1.

Mittal, worth an estimated €20 billion, promised to invest heavily in the plant but it closed six years later.

Despite his wealth, the employees were only offered statutory redundancy.

No attempt has been made to get his company to pay for the clean-up of the site.

Mr Stanton said he was anxious to see the site made safe and added it should be sealed and capped.

Cllr John Mulvihill, who worked at the plant during its heyday, said it was taking too long for the Government to make a decision on the site and about a promised health survey, especially as Cobh had a 37% higher than normal rate of cancer.

There is another legacy the Labour Party councillor is unhappy about.

“When the plant closed we were promised a taskforce (to create replacement jobs). Nothing happened. The taskforce delivered nothing,” Cllr Mulvihill said.

He said promises by the former environment minister John Gormley to set up a baseline health study in the harbour had also come to nothing and he was waiting to see if the latest batch of promises about the future of the Haulbowline site would materialise.

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