Residents of a Co Cork village are shocked at revelations that 40,000 tonnes of incinerator ash could be buried every year at an unused landfill on their doorstep.
A number of county councillors are also bitterly disappointed they were not informed by Cork County Council officials of talks, with waste management operator, Indaver, about the plan.
The anger locally, and among public representatives, came after Indaver and council officials admitted to the Irish Examiner that discussions were continuing about burying the ash at the Bottlehill landfill, 20km north of Cork City.
Bottlehill Environmental Alliance spokesman, John O’Riordan, said that local families were horrified at the disclosure, claiming a former county manager had given assurances to householders, in the mid-2000s, that incinerator ash would never be buried at the site.
Mr O’Riordan said the local authority had “a huge millstone around its neck”, after spending €48m on the landfill site, which had been due to open in 2010, but which mothballed after a surplus of landfill nationally made it uneconomic.
Locals were concerned, he said, that ash could be gouged out of the ground by floods.
“This new proposal worries us, because of the elevation of the site and its number of aquifers. A lot of water comes off it and we were hit by 70mm of rain in less than 20 hours last Sunday. Our fears are enhanced by the likelihood of more and more severe rainfall events,” said Mr O’Riordan.
The revelation comes as a Bord Pleanála oral hearing is due to commence in Carrigaline, next Tuesday. Indaver is making a third attempt to secure planning for a €160m incinerator plant in Ringaskiddy, with a chimney stack reportedly the size of an eight-storey building.
Councillor Seamus McGrath said the talks between the council and Indaver were “a serious error of judgment”.
“Under the Strategic Infrastructure Planning system, the council is obliged to submit an independent assessment of the proposal (to Bord Pleanála for the Indaver oral hearing). In my view, it is inappropriate for the council to have been engaging with Indaver on this issue, prior to fulfilling its role in the planning process.
“I want to be clear. I am not for a second suggesting the council’s report would be influenced, as I know that would not happen, given the professionalism of the officials. However, the perception of this is all wrong.”
The FF council leader said he would be calling on senior officials to make a statement on the full extent of their engagement with Indaver.
Councillor Marcia D’Alton (Ind), an environmental engineer, said even if officials did not want to release commercially sensitive information, they could at least have briefed councillors about the nature of activities being proposed for the Bottlehill site.
Councillor Ger Keohane (Ind) claimed he had asked, on a number of occasions, about plans for Bottlehill and had not gotten a reply. “As councillors, we should have been entitled to know officials were in discussions with Indaver.”
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