A toxic dump which resembled a “lunar landscape” 12 months ago has been transformed into a public park which will open to the public next May.
The 22-acre site at Haulbowline Island in Co Cork was formerly the site for Irish Ispat/Irish Steel.
The €60 million redevelopment of the former East Tip dump involved one of the biggest environmental works in the history of the State.
The area had been used for waste disposal for decades with an estimated 650,000 cubic metres of slag and other waste metal from the steelworks deposited on the site from the 1960s until steel making ended at the plant in 2001 and the mill was dismantled.
The project involved installing tens of thousands of tonnes of rock armour around the island and the placing of thousands of tonnes of topsoil on to the site.
It was also contoured and landscaped. New playing pitches have been installed in addition to walkways and cycleways. Seating areas are in place and the transformation involved the planting of hundreds of trees, woodland mix planting, native mix planting and wildflower areas.
The new park is on the east side of Haulbowline whilst the western section is occupied by the Naval Service.
Speaking on Friday, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said the change was "absolutely extraordinary" on the site.
He said: “I was here 12 months ago and it was like a lunar landscape. We actually had to put special gowns on because of the contamination that was being dealt with locally. I must say what has been done here really looks fantastic – it is very impressive.
“The benefits of these works will resonate with the near neighbours and surrounding areas of Haulbowline Island for generations to come.”
County Lord Mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said the area was a "terrible ecological and environmental blight" when the project started seven years ago.
“We have come a long way with this and ultimately, the council want to see this site fulfil its potential to become a fantastic park for the people of Cork which will also offer another jewel in the crown for Cork tourism.”
The Government approved a proposal to enable the clean-up of the East Tip on Haulbowline Island in 2011 after the EU had threatened legal action against Ireland under the waste directive.
The work started with upgrades to the bridge and road infrastructure to facilitate construction traffic, and the extensive works on the site commenced in October 2017.
The remediation of the East Tip has involved 47,000 tonnes of rock armour material brought on to the site to protect the shoreline and a further 180,000 tonnes of subsoil and 37,000 tonnes of topsoil brought on to the site to bring the history of exposed waste on the site to a close.