Cork incinerator will have ‘negligible impact on human health’

Health expert for waste company Indaver says dioxin emissions will be ‘insignificant’

An artist’s impression of the proposed waste-to-energy facility

An artist’s impression of the proposed waste-to-energy facility

 

Waste management company Indaver has said it is confident that its €160 million hazardous waste incinerator planned for Ringaskiddy will have a “negligible impact” on the health of people living in the Cork Harbour area.

Indaver health expert Dr Martin Hogan told a hearing into the project that “while there is some conflicting evidence on the health effects from older generation, more polluting incinerators, multiple studies in the literature do not show adverse impact on human health from modern incinerators”.

Dr Hogan said that Air Quality Standards, which govern the operation of incinerators and with which the Ringaskiddy facility will comply, are set to protect the vulnerable.

In a submission which will be challenged by opponents of the project at a later date during the hearing, Dr Hogan said a review of the literature, the experience from similar incinerators and modelling carried out on the impact of the Ringaskiddy facility all pointed to one conclusion.

“We can be confident that there will be negligible impact on human health from the proposed facility,” said Dr Hogan who is a registered specialist in occupational medicine with the Irish Medical Council.

Chemical engineer, Dr Fergal Callaghan, also for Indaver, told the hearing that after carrying out various baseline tests on dioxin levels and modelling projections on emissions from the planned facility, he believed its impact in terms of dioxin emissions would be “insignificant”.

Dr Callaghan said the European Union has recognised the risks associated with dioxins and has set intake limit values accordingly.

The key issue was not whether dioxins are released or not but rather whether they breach the EU dioxin intake limit designed to protect human health.

“Dioxins are present in the environment all around us as a result of all combustion processes and the proposed development will not cause any significant increase in dioxin concentrations,” said Dr Callaghan who dismissed a claim by a Cobh group that “incinerators account for 70 per cent of all dioxins”.

He cited an Environmental Protection Agency report that estimated dioxin emission from energy plants, such as the proposed incinerator, would account for just 1.8 per cent of emissions in Ireland in 2002, based on an assumption of 1.5 million tonne municipal waste incineration capacity.

“Uncontrolled emissions were projected to account for 84 per cent of total emissions and uncontrolled emissions include forest fires, grassland and bog fires and agricultural residue burning in the field, accidental house and factory fires, vehicle fires and uncontrolled domestic waste burning,” he said.

Also for Indaver, environmental consultant Dr Edward Porter pointed out Swedish research on incinerators found “that waste incineration plants with modern flue gas cleaning systems are not a relevant source for the emission of ultrafine particles into the environment”.