Indaver hearing: Explosion ‘could not happen here’

The company proposing to build a waste-to-energy plant in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, has dismissed claims that incinerators account for 70% of all dioxins or that an explosion which recently rocked one of its Belgian sites could happen here.

Indaver hearing: Explosion ‘could not happen here’

Dr Fergal Callaghan, chemical engineer, told an oral hearing that, “contrary to myth”, incinerators are not responsible for 70% of all dioxins. In fact, based on Environmental Protection Agency projections, uncontrolled combustion processes such as forest fires, burning of agricultural residue, and uncontrolled domestic waste burning accounted for 84% of total emissions, he said.

Dr Callaghan was speaking as an expert witness for Indaver Ireland on day two of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into proposals by the waste management company to build a €160m incinerator in Ringaskiddy.

Occupational health specialist Dr Martin Hogan, on behalf of Indaver, said the impact on human health of living near an incinerator would be “negligible”, based on all the available evidence.

Engineer Thomas Leonard, an expert witness for Indaver, said several submissions in relation to the proposed 240,000 tonnes per annum waste-to-energy facility cited an incident that occurred at the company’s Antwerp site on February 26. An explosion occurred after fire spread from a road tanker to a warehouse storing chemicals.

Mr Leonard said that “this scenario could not arise at the Ringaskiddy plant” due to significant differences between the facilities, namely that Ringaskiddy would not be used to collect or handle waste of the type that gave rise to the Belgium explosion.

An Bord Pleanála inspector Derek Daly said he required a “little bit more detail”.

“I certainly would want, and the board would want, some clarity so the level of risk can be quantified,” said Mr Daly.

Mr Leonard also referred to concerns raised by PDFORRA about the potential impact to a natural gas pipeline at the site in the event of an incident at the Ringaskiddy facility.

He said there would be no impact to the pipeline “from any of the accident scenarios that could arise at that site”.

A coastal erosion expert on behalf of Indaver, Julie Ascoop, said coastal protection mitigation measures were not required for the waste-to-energy facility element of the development. However, coastal protection measures to reduce the rate of erosion — which Indaver claims is 50cm per annum — would be implemented “as a precautionary measure”. She said applying this rate of erosion resulted in “an expected maximum retreat of 15m in 30 years’ time”.

She confirmed that rock armour would not be used to combat coastal erosion. “It’s completely out. There is no rock armour,” she said.

On foot of a recommendation from Cork County Council, Ms Ascoop said monitoring would take place every year after winter storms.

Joanna O’Brien, Arup geology expert, told the hearing the development will have “minimal negative impact on the soils, geology, hydrogeology, and hydrology of the site”.

In response to HSE concerns about the affect of the proposed facility on private wells, she said there would be no emissions to ground or groundwater and “very comprehensive measures” will be implemented to prevent spills or leaks entering the ground or groundwater.

In relation to concerns that a nearby wind turbine could have an adverse effect on the dispersal of the plume, a report by expert witness Dr Edward Porter said the impact”will not be significant and will not lead to an exceedance of the ambient air quality standards”.

Indaver Ireland rejected claims that its planned incinerator will be “yet another blot on the landscape of Cork Harbour”.

Architect John Kelly said it was “another part of the evolution of Cork Harbour”.

Indaver’s expert witnesses concluded their presentations yesterday.

The hearing continues today and will include contributions from State bodies, including Cork County Council.

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