Haulbowline clean-up will not include all dumps


THE PROPOSED €40 million remediation plan for Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour will address only a former dump known as the East Tip, and will not address similar, legacy sites containing industrial pollution on the island, it has emerged.

Cork County Council has said it would welcome a “Tier 1” risk assessment of the main steelworks site and another legacy dump, known as the South Tip. But the council said it did not own the sites and had “no authority to intervene”.

Steel was produced on Haulbowline between 1939 and 2001 and waste from the process was dumped first at the South Tip and from the 1960s at a sand bar which became known as the East Tip.

Last week, Cork County Council unveiled an ambitious plan to “cap” the East Tip in a remediation plan which could cost up to €40 million. The council had been asked by Minister Simon Coveney to put together the plan.

However Friends of the Irish Environment expressed dismay that the plan will only cover the East Tip and not address issues of legacy pollution at the South Tip or the steelworks site.

The group quoted from a 2001 report from consultants Enviros Aspinwall to the effect that there was “on the main [steelworks] site, a high risk to humans from PCB spills; a high risk to marine ecosystems from metals from dust; high to moderate risks to humans from wind-blown dust; high to moderate risks to human intruders from radioactive contamination; a moderate risk to site workers from metals in the building interiors; and high risks to groundwater from hydrocarbon process and storage spills . . .”

In response, Cork County Council’s project manager Cormac Ó Súilleabháin said he would welcome a risk assessment at the other sites. But he said the project the Government had asked the council to oversee was site-specific to the East Tip. Dr Ó Súilleabháin said the council was “aware of the contaminant issues pertaining to the site of the former steelworks” and some of these issues had been listed on the project website.

He said the council would welcome the clean-up of the site “but it must be acknowledged that the council does not own the site nor does it have any authority to intervene”.

Dr Ó Súilleabháin said in 2009 the case of the East Tip was joined to a European Court of Justice case which ruled that Ireland had infringed the Waste Framework Directive by persistently failing to fulfil its obligation to fulfil various articles under that directive. He said the South Tip was not included because the dumping there had taken place prior to the 1977 creation of the directive.

Dr Ó Súilleabháin said it was hoped “a Tier I risk assessment of this site could be undertaken at some stage in the near future” but he cautioned that “this would be dependent on the availability of resources”.