30 June 2008


Dan Boyle, Senator (Green) 30/6/08

Haulbowline is an issue that I've commented on a lot in my time as a local politician.
Last week I trawled through my files on the subject and came up with dozens of pages of press releases, Dáil speeches and submissions to Bord Pleanala and Environmental Protection Agency oral hearings.

I must admit that I am surprised that many now appear to be surprised. Haulbowline has long been the most contaminated site in Ireland. It has been known how much and what type of hazardous material is there. I have referred to these statistics in the speeches, submissions and press releases I've made over the years.

Many of those who are seeking to make political capital on this have been until now utterly silent on the environmental hazards of Haulbowline, and sometimes have even defended the worsening of those hazards such as through the shameful Irish Ispat deal in 1995.

Much spinning has been going on. The sub contractors whose work went beyond where they were meant to, were creating an environmental risk. I have no confidence in a company that has a judgement for illegal dumping against it, and I question how they were ever allowed to work on the island. Hazardous material was being removed without any containment structures being in place. I believe the Department of the Environment was correct to ask this company to leave the site.

There is no cover up and with a Green Party Minister for the Environment there cannot be. We did not approve of this waste being dumped here and we are more than aware of the need to have waste cleared safely. The inference I took from the Minister’s statement on the health risks that exist, was in relation to the immediate risks as the polluted materials are contained. There is, of course, a long term environmental health risk while the material remains on the island. Getting cabinet approval for this will be the John Gormley's biggest test. This clean up will cost several hundreds of millions of euro. It is a cost that has to be met.

Justifiable cynicism continues to exist among residents of the Cork Harbour area about how officials of several State agencies have colluded in creating and then sought to minimise the threat posed by inaction on Haulbowline. They deserve better and the Minister for the Environment has a huge responsibility to show that things can be done better and far differently. I am encouraged by his action on Friday to appoint consultants to assess the present risk caused by removal of material in an unsafe manner. This Tuesday he will be meeting with local residents, the Minister has told me that he will make all necessary information available. I further believe that a consultative committee with local participation should be put in place. This committee should have full and regular access to whatever subsequent information becomes available about the monitoring of the site, and what materials are being removed how and when.

Reassurances to Cork Harbour residents have to go beyond this. The Minister has further told me that not only will his department do all it must do, but also he will seek to convince the government in general and several of his cabinet colleagues of other confidence measures that are needed. Chief among these would be to finally prepare a Cork Harbour base line Health Survey, as was once suggested by Dr. Rory O’Hanlon when he was Minister for Health in 1989.

If there is one outstanding benefit of the issue of Haulbowline coming to the fore again, it is that it gives an opportunity for once and for all to deal with this scandal fully, effectively and in ways that public confidence can be properly restored. I am confident that only a Green Party Minister for the Environment in these circumstances can help to achieve that.


Major health risk posed to public by former Ispat site

Simon Coveney TD (FG) 30/6/08

Government assurances are not accurate, immediate action needed.

The assurances by the Minister for the Environment that the former Irish Ispat site does not pose any health risk to the people of Cork are not accurate based on what we know from reports on the site. I called for the government to immediately make an honest declaration of the facts about the former Irish Ispat site, and then to set out in detail what it is going to do to make the site safe, regardless of cost.

Minister Gormley has assured us that people in Cork will not be exposed to any health risk because of hazardous waste at the site of the former Irish Ispat steel plant in Cork. However based on what we know from several reports about the site, this simply is not the case. His claims are both inaccurate and irresponsible.

We now know, for example, from a environmental report completed last December that on the shoreline of the site there are mercury levels 25 times higher than should require serious intervention, and that an environmental engineer working for the Department requested “emergency treatment immediately” for certain parts of the site.

We have also had junior Minister Máire Hoctor repeatedly telling the Dáil last week, on behalf of Minister Gormley, that no subsurface investigation at the site has taken place. This simply is not true – I have seen reports of several such investigations.

It is past time for Minister Gormley to make an honest declaration of the facts about the site, warts and all, and then to set out in detail what the Government is going to do to make the site safe. There should be no budgetary constraints on the process of making this site safe; it is too serious for that. The Minister needs to outline a plan to prevent further environmental damage and to re-assure people living and working in the vicinity, that he is doing everything possible to make the site safe.


Contamination on Haulbowline island

Cork Harbour website 30/6/08

Local Cork company Louis J O Regan Ltd., have raised the issue of contamination on Haulbowline Island at the old Irish Steel works while carrying out remedial works on the site. Louis J O Regan Ltd were contracted to remove 15,000 tonnes of waste from the surface but soon revealed large amounts of potentially toxic waste, including Chromium 6, regarded as the second most dangerous carcinogenic known in the world. This issue has received widespread media attention in the last week. Concerns have been expressed by environmental groups within the harbour, by local residents and local politicians. Statutory bodies with responsibilities for monitoring the clean up of the site, including the EPA and Cork County Council, have confirmed that the clean up process is being conducted in a controlled manner. Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, has said that an independent assessment of the process is to be carried out.


27 June 2008

Chromium (VI): linked to lung cancer

The Irish Times 27/6/08

THE TOXIC waste left behind at the Haulbowline plant includes traces of chromium (VI). This has been shown to cause lung cancer in workers exposed to the substance according to the US National Toxicology Programme run under the national institutes of health.

It is in widespread industrial use in electroplating and stainless steel production, the most likely reason it was found at the former Irish Steel plant is that the plant would have received recycled chrome-plated metals. While most health impacts are caused by breathing in chromium (VI) dust, the substance can form compounds that can get into water systems.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has set very low levels for drinking water, with maximum limits of 100 microgrammes per litre of water, some states set even lower limits. The film Erin Brockovich told the true story of a legal case surrounding a chromium (VI) pollution incident in California.


Gormley insists steel plant site at Haulbowline is safe

Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent
The Irish Times 27/6/08

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley yesterday moved to assure residents of Cork Harbour that the former Irish Steel site on Haulbowline island is safe despite claims that larger than expected amounts of hazardous material have been found there.

Mr Gormley said both the EPA and experts from the Department of the Environment are monitoring the former site and liaising with two staff on the site following the termination of a contract with a local contractor to carry out site clearance work.

"The situation is that the site clearance has now ceased and I have been assured that the highest environmental standards are being observed and both the EPA and my department have given me assurances that people will not be exposed to any risk," said Mr Gormley.

According to Mr Gormley, Hammond Lane Metal Company was contracted to remove buildings at the site of the former steel plant and the company subcontracted the clearance work out to Louis J O'Regan Ltd.

However, the contract was terminated when the subcontractors began excavating below surface level, disturbing hazardous materials.

It was decided it was safer to cease that work rather than expose hazardous materials, he said.

"It's very difficult to quantify how much hazardous material is there.

"We know that there were 50,000 tonnes deposited there every year for 10 years so there's at least 500,000 tonnes but you can never know until you bore down properly and start to remediate the site.

"Remediation is difficult because when you start to remediate, you're digging up a lot of this stuff and you are exposing people and this is where the dispute arose with this particular subcontractor and the EPA and the department felt this digging was counter-productive."

However, Mr Gormley's assertion about the termination of the contract was disputed by environmental consultant Stephen Griffin.

Mr Griffin said he was hired by Hammond Lane because of his expertise in dealing with heavy metals to advise on the site clearance. The contract with the department specified that the contractor or his agents should clear the site to "a clean safe level".

"We were obliged in our contract to leave a clean safe level site behind for remediation but there's no such thing on Haulbowline island as a clean level surface.

"When we took off the surface layers of hazardous waste, we found more layers of hazardous waste. Our initial discussion was on the removal of about 1,500 tonnes of hazardous material but when we hit 100,000 tonnes, people in Dublin became fearful about the cost."

Mr Griffin said it appeared to him that the Department of the Environment didn't have a plan to finish the job but he urged Mr Gormley to carry on immediately with full clean-up and remediation in order to make the area safe for naval personnel and others on the island. Mr Griffin said that it addition to toxic heavy metals such as zinc, lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium, there are also some 500,000 tonnes of contaminated hydrocarbons buried on the island and he expressed concern about these materials leaching out in tidal movements.

The subcontractor in dispute with the department over the clean-up, Louis O'Regan, was ordered by the High Court in 2005 to pay an estimated €210,000 costs toward an investigation into the effects of illegal dumping on lands he owned at Weir Island in Fota.

Mr O'Regan could not be contacted for comment yesterday but the Cork Harbour Alliance for A Safe Environment (Chase) called on Mr Gormley to commission a baseline study to establish the health of people living in the Cork Harbour area.

"We also call on Minister Gormley to implement his promised EPA reform, and to separate the EPA into stand-alone protection and licensing bodies. The current remit where the EPA has dual responsibility means that the community is sacrificed because the EPA must look after its customers, industry," said a Chase spokeswoman.


Cork CoCo AGM: Toxic Waste at Irish Steel Site, Haulbowline

Cork County Council
Annual Meeting 27 June 2008

Minutes of Proceedings at Annual Meeting of Cork County Council held in the Council Chamber, County Hall, Cork on 27 June 2008


Councillor T. Sheahan, County Mayor presided.

Councillors K. Murphy, Neville, Coleman, Sheehan, P.G. Murphy, O'Shea, Harrington, Crowley, Kelly, Fleming, Ryan, McGrath, Forde, M. O'Keeffe, T. Lombard, Desmond, J A. Collins, K. O'Keeffe, O'Flynn, Pyne, O'Doherty, P. Buckley, Marian Murphy, Marie Murphy, N. Buckley, Donegan, Creed, Moynihan, Mullally, Fitzgerald, O'Connor, Sheahan, Hegarty, Mulvihill, N. Collins, Ahern, Hallinan, Murray, Collins, McCarthy, Carroll, O'Donovan, Daly.

County Manager, A/County Engineer, Senior Executive Officer

Suspension of Standing Orders - Toxic Waste at Irish Steel Site, Haulbowline

Councillor J. Mulvihill proposed, seconded by Councillor M. Hegarty, the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss the toxic waste at the former Irish Steel Site at Haulbowline. He said he was concerned at recent media reports which suggested that waste at the site is toxic and that there may be a potential health risk to people in the area. He sought clarification on what monitoring of the site has been done if the report findings can be made public to allay fears that people may have. He also queried if toxic waste was transferred from the site by road. He said he was requesting that a health study would be carried out on people in the lower harbour area.

The County Manager said that while the occasion was not appropriate for a full debate, there is a lot of fear and misunderstanding surrounding this case and that there is a need to reassure people. He stated that there is no cover up going on and that the site has a long history.

The Manager advised that the EPA is trying to manage a process to seek a future use of the island and that this is being done in a controlled manner. He said that there are contractual issues which need to be borne in mind when requesting the Department of the Environment to release any reports regarding the site but said he would pass on the Members request.

The Manager stated that the transportation of waste is heavily regulated. He also said that he would make any information possible available to anybody requesting same. He stated that he would also pass on the request to have a health study carried out.

This was noted by the Members.


Mayor of Cobh demands answers on Irish Steel site

John Mulvihill, Councillor (Lab) 27/6/08

The Mayor of Cobh John Mulvihill jnr has today called on the Minister for the Environment John Gormley to issue a statement about the revelations about the former Irish steel site.

I want the minister to come clean on all the records and studies his department have carried out on the site. I also request to that he and his department in partnership with the department of health to carry out a study in to the amount of cases of cancer and related heath risks that have been diagnosed in the Harbour area over the last number of years.

The question of the transportation of the 100,000 tones of hazardous material has also to be addressed. He needs to detail where it was shipped from and the precautions that were put in place.

Cobh is a town in fear at the moment with many unanswered question from yesterdays revelations. The people of Cobh need answers now and we cannot wait until the minister announces his plans for the site in the autumn.

The People of Cobh of Cobh and the lower harbour area deserve nothing less from our government.


Cork Harbour residents slam Gormley and EPA

The Independent 27/6/08

A residents group in Cork says it has lost confidence in the Environment Minister and the EPA following the latest environmental scandal to hit the area.

Concerns have been raised this morning about the way in which hazardous waste at the former Irish Steel plant in Haulbowline is being disposed.

The Government has reportedly ordered a sub-contractor to seal a number of "lagoons" containing huge amounts of toxic by-products rather than removing the material for disposal.

The Department of the Environment, the EPA and Cork County Council are also being accused of trying to cover up the amount of hazardous waste buried at the site.

The Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment says it has no faith in Minister John Gormley or the EPA to properly address the situation.

Meanwhile, attempts by Labour Party TD Joan Burton to seek answers from Mr Gormley in the Dail this morning were ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle.


Pollution time bomb - We must have honesty and action

Irish Examiner 27/6/08

THIS week we were forced to acknowledge one unpleasant reality, one we have denied for far too long. We had to accept that our once booming economy is in recession.

Yesterday, we were forced to acknowledge another. We were reminded us all of a toxic skeleton in our cupboard, one we have avoided for far too long. We all know it exists and that, sooner or later, it would have to be confronted.

We all know that the former Irish Steel plant, at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour, is badly contaminated and that it will have to be restored and redeveloped.

Yesterday, the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) claimed that those contaminants include heavy metals such as mercury, zinc and lead, as well as hydrocarbons, PCBs and chromium 6, a powerful carcinogen. It is also believed that there still is radioactive material at the facility. Documents in our possession show that 100,000 tons of contaminated soil have been exported to Germany but that at least 500,000 tons remain on site.

So, there's a lot of toxic material there, some of it dangerous, some of it very dangerous and those issues cannot be avoided. Though those realities are stark enough there's more.

The FIE also claim that Cork County Council has been less than forthcoming about the extent of the contamination. They accuse the council of refusing to release documentation on the matter. FIE say that the council refused to release 19 of 20 requested documents relating to the site.

If a public body like Cork County Council refused to release these documents they must explain why and whose interests were being served. Were they the authority's, the public's, the Government's or those of some unidentified third party? The issues at stake are too great and cannot be shrugged off with the usual public-service omerta. The charges must be either refuted or explained.

And still there is more. A contractor employed by the Department of the Environment to do "surface clearance work" says that when he discovered vast quantities of contaminated materials, far beyond what was imagined to exist at the site, he was ordered to cover them and then quit the site pending a decision on the Government's plans for the island. The contractor discovered the material because one of his machines sank in a huge, unmarked pit of hazardous waste.

Even the Department of the Environment has admitted that they cannot quantify the waste at the site.

It is appropriate to remind ourselves that the plant finally closed in June 2001 with the loss of 400 jobs. That's seven years to the day more or less and it has not yet been established how much waste is on the site.

Why not? We all know it's there and that it must be processed but, seven years later, we can't say with any accuracy what's buried at Haulbowline. This is not acceptable and undermines the credibility of all organisations with responsibility in the sorry saga.

And what a sorry saga Irish Steel has been. The State took a series of unsuccessful court cases trying to get Irish Ispat, which bought the plant from the government for £1 in 1996, to accept responsibility, or a proportion of responsibility, for the mess. At the end of the day the State is responsible, if for no other reason than it is obliged to protect its citizens.

Because of the scale of the problem enormous resources and effort will be needed to resolve the issue. It may, though it is unlikely, transpire that a large proportion of the material is less toxic than we might fear but right now no one seems to know. Whether it's a time bomb or whether our fears are unfounded we just can't say but ignorance breeds fear.

The Environmental Protection Agency claims it "supervises the environmental protection activities of local authorities by auditing their performance, providing advice and guidance, and, in appropriate cases, giving binding directions ... We work with local authorities and public bodies involved in enforcement ... "

All of this sounds fine and dandy but it's hard to make that fit with the mess in Cork Harbour where the EPA's record is less impressive than they might wish it to be. Though the EPA is not by any means the only organisation involved, it is the citizens' watchdog and, in that capacity, it must quickly allay our fears or propose a course of action that can, in time, allay those fears.

As the recession bites it will be difficult to fund non-essential projects but we have been treated with contempt on this matter for far too long. We all know that, at the very least, there's the potential for significant pollution buried at the site. It's time for honesty and action.


Govt under fire over clean-up of Irish Steel site

The Independent 27/6/08

The Government has reportedly told a sub-contracting firm not to remove huge pools of hazardous waste from the former Irish Steel site at Haulbowline Island near Cork.

The company was in the process of removing the 500,000 tonnes of waste and shipping it to Germany for disposal.

However, reports this morning say the Department of the Environment has asked the firm involved in the clean-up to cap the lagoons containing the waste until a detailed risk assessment is carried out.

An official investigation has reportedly found that the waste, which includes highly toxic materials, is likely to pose a severe risk to the health of local people.

The Government, the Environmental Protection Agency and Cork County Council are being accused of mounting a cover-up over the matter by failing to reveal the true extent of the waste on site.

An environmental consultant working for the contracting firm says capping the waste lagoons goes against every environmental principle.

However, Environment Minister John Gormley is accusing the contractor of failing to clean up the site properly and says his officials are currently compiling a report on the situation.


26 June 2008

Toxic waste cover-up - Firm told to leave 500,000 tonnes of material on site

By Conor Kane
Irish Examiner 26/6/08

THE Department of the Environment has been accused of a "cover-up" concerning the extent of highly hazardous waste buried at what has been described as potentially "the largest and most extensive pollution incident in the history of the State".

Documents seen by the Irish Examiner indicate that the department told a sub-contracting firm involved in a clean-up operation at the controversial Irish Steel site at Haulbowline Island near Cork to "cap" lagoons containing hazardous waste, rather than remove the potentially deadly material - estimated at about 500,000 tonnes.

The documents also reveal the waste includes highly toxic substances such as chromium 6 â€" the second most dangerous carcinogen - as well as hydrocarbons and other oil and metal byproducts. The cost of the operation at Haulbowline to date also suggests a full clean-up of the site could cost up to €300 million.

An official investigation, the findings of which have been seen by the Irish Examiner, has already found that the waste material is "likely" to be a "severe" health risk to people locally, such as the residents of Cobh and navy personnel based nearby, mainly because of toxic dust getting carried by the wind.

It also represents a huge risk to flora and fauna.

A health and safety company, which was sub-contracted to clean up the site last October, said in its initial submission that it would remove any hazardous waste from the site "for disposal", with the agreement of local representatives from the department.

However, a letter sent to the contractors by the department on April 18 last told them: "It is the considered view of the department, following consultations with the Environmental Protection Agency and Cork County Council, that the required course of action will be to cap the lagoon with inert slag material (or other such suitable available material), pending a detailed risk assessment of the entire site."

This recommendation came despite the fact that an investigation and assessment was carried out six years ago on behalf of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The sub-contractors said they had already removed 100,000 tonnes of hazardous waste from the site, at a cost of €50m, and shipped it to Germany for disposal.

The German company involved in processing the waste has already written to the contractors expressing concern about the level of chromium 6 contained in the material. According to sub-contractors Louis J O'Regan Ltd, the Department of the Environment owes them €20m for the removal of hazardous waste and has terminated their contract. The company says health and safety legislation obliges them to complete the removal of the waste. "They told us to bury the waste and we didn't," said a representative from Louis J O'Regan Ltd. "Under health and safety regulations, we can't hand back the site until it is all done."

Environmental consultant Stephen Griffin, engaged by the contractors to oversee the project, told the Irish Examiner that information on the hazardous waste has been with the department since 2001 and that the contractors "were refused access to this". The extent of the problem was only realised when clean-up work started.

Mr Griffin accused the EPA, Cork County Council and the department of a "a cover-up".

To cap the waste - with further waste - rather than remove it, he said, would "go against every environmental principle that has ever been written, apart from Irish law and European law and health and safety law", he said. However, the department said in a statement last night the sub-contractors had carried out "unauthorised works" following the discovery of the pit of hazardous waste. It accused the sub-contractors of refusing to vacate the site and continuing to operate "without authorisation and in a piecemeal fashion causing a threat to the environment by its actions" and described accusations of a cover-up as "entirely false".

Environment Minister John Gormley last night insisted he remained committed to transforming the site from an environmental liability into an asset for the region. "My officials are finalising a report on the site, which will outline options for its future, which I hope to bring to government in the autumn. Work has been ongoing for the last five years to properly assess the site, so that an informed decision on its future can be made.

"In relation to the recent issues regarding sub-contractors on the site, the department, acting on best expert advice of the EPA, ordered the unauthorised work to stop, as there were serious concerns that the work being carried out in such a piecemeal fashion posed a significant environmental risk," he said.

According to the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), who accused Cork County Council of a "cover-up", the council refused to release 19 out of 20 records on the issue. FIE described the contamination as "the largest and most extensive pollution incident in the history of the State". Cork County Council said it was a matter for the department.


Minister misleads Dail on Govt handling of hazardous waste in Cork

Simon Coveney TD (FG) 26/6/08

Govt's handling of the issue is grossly negligent.

Speaking in the Dail this afternoon (Thursday) I accused Minister of State Maire Hoctor of misleading the Dail by claiming that during the past five years, only a surface investigation has been conducted of the former ISPAT site in Cork Harbour.

I made this accusation during a debate on a Private Notice Question put down by myself and Cork TDs David Stanton, Deirdre Clune, Sean Sherlock and Ciaran Lynch on the issue in the Dail this afternoon.

If what Minister of State Hoctor is saying is true, then the Government has deliberately ignored what everyone suspected to be subsurface contamination at the site.

If on the other hand, as is common knowledge, a subsurface investigation has taken place, then the Minister has deliberately misled the Dail, and is complicit in a cover-up of the Government's knowledge as to the extent of the hazardous material. If this is the case, and Government Ministers have been sitting on information and have not exposed the true extent of hazardous material on the site, their actions can only be described as grossly negligent.

This is an issue of huge concern for residents of Ringaskiddy, people working in the naval base in Haulbowline and in the maritime college. It is also of concern to residents in Cobh and the thousands of people who use the harbour for recreational purposes.

The Government needs to be upfront and honest, expose the full extent of hazardous material on the site, and put in place a short-term plan to clean the site up and guarantee public safety. Because of the level of suspicion and anger, nothing else will restore public confidence on this issue.


Gormley denies Haulbowline poses health risk

RTÉ News 26/6/08

The Minister for Environment, John Gormley, has said he has been assured by his department that people will not be exposed to any health risk because of hazardous waste at Haulbowline in Cork.

Mr Gormley said that he will meet residents to reassure them of this, and said he hoped to bring a report to Government later this year outlining options to deal with an estimated half a million tonnes of waste.

Health fears have been raised after a sub-contractor involved in a surface clearance at the site claimed to have uncovered levels of a toxin, chromium six, which causes cancer, and has accused the Department of a cover-up. The waste came from the former Irish Ispat steel plant at the site.

The department has denied there was any cover-up and Minister Gormley says his officials are considering the options for dealing with the dump at Haulbowline.

Labour Deputy Leader Joan Burton called on Mr Gormley to come into the Dáil to explain why the contractors were ordered to stop work. When she continued to ask whether the people of Cork were safe, she was told by the Ceann Comhairle that she was out of order and would have to sit down or leave the House. A number of deputies were also ruled out of order earlier today when they tried to raise the issue on the Order of Business.

A report in today's Irish Examiner claims that the waste contains the highly toxic chemical chromium six. The chemical, also known as hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)), causes cancer and is the same material against which US activist and film heroine Erin Brockovich campaigned.

For more than 60 years, steel production at Haulbowline turned the 20-acre island in Cork harbour into one of the most dangerous dumps in the country. In the decade before the steel plant closed in 2001, more than half a million tonnes of hazardous waste was dumped there, and when it finally closed the big question was what could be done with the material to make the site safe. The Department of Environment took control of the site in 2003 and since then it has been trying to establish exactly what is buried there and what risks it poses.

Audio & Video:

Six One News: Paschal Sheehy, Southern Editor, reports that Minister John Gormley has said people are not at risk because of hazardous waste at Haulbowline in Cork
Nine News: Paschal Sheehy, Southern Editor, reports that John Gormley has said that chemicals found at Haulbowline pose no risk to local residents
One News: Watch the video
News At One: Listen to Dáil exchanges on the issue of waste at Haulbowline in Cork harbour
News At One: Environmental consultant Stephen Griffin says he was brought onto the site to do a surface clean-up
News At One: John Gormley, Minister for the Environment, says he can reassure residents that the site is safe


Statement by John Gormley TD Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in relation to the Former Irish Ispat (Irish Steel) site...

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government 26/6/08

Mr John Gormley TD Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government today (26 June 08) reiterated his commitment to dealing with the legacy issue of waste at the Haulbowline site. This waste was deposited there over decades of operations at the site. The Minister also responded to the allegation that there was a cover up by his Department in relation to the Former Irish Ispat (Irish Steel) site at Haulbowline, Cork.

"Accusations of a cover up are entirely false. I was appalled to hear reports today through the media that officials of my Department have been accused of being involved in a cover up in relation to the former Irish Steel plant at Cork. The source of these allegations seems to be a sub-contractor who was involved in surface clearance works on behalf of the main contractor, Hammond Lane. Following the inadvertent discovery of a sub-surface sludge pit of hazardous waste a series of unauthorised works were undertaken by the contractor as a consequence of the find. These unauthorised works potentially compromised the safety of the site and as result the contract for the surface works was terminated," said Minister Gormley.

This surface clearance became necessary following the demolition and decontamination of the former Irish Steel/Ispat buildings to remove resultant debris from the surface only. These works were carried out as an interim step pending a decision by the Government on the potential future use of the site and the consequent sub-surface remediation which would be required.

The Department under the direction of a Government decision, has been managing, on a care and maintenance basis, the former Irish Ispat (Irish Steel) facility at Haulbowline, Co. Cork, assisted by Cork County Council, since summer 2003. During that period the Department has coordinated all legal actions in relation to the site, carried out a comprehensive site investigation to determine the levels of contamination and remediation/development options at the site, set up ongoing environmental monitoring at established monitoring points, decontaminated and demolished the steelworks buildings and arranged for the site surface clearance contract. This site investigation was a necessarily preliminary one but did include sub-surface sampling. It will of course be necessary to engage in a comprehensive risk assessment of the entire site once the Government has determined its future use to ensure that it is fully remediated for that purpose.

This process has now brought the site to a position where the Government can make an informed decision as to its future use.

"My principal concern is for the people of Cork Harbour and I want to reassure them that the Government is fully committed to transforming what is currently an environmental liability into an asset for the people of Cork. I hope to bring proposals to Government as soon as possible to assist with a determination as to the optimum future use of site," added Minister Gormley.


Note for Editors
The steel mills operated over many decades at a time when such industrial activities were poorly regulated. The nature of the activity generated very large quantities of hazardous waste, which were dumped on the island in an area, which became known as the East Tip.

When the plant went into liquidation the Government decided that, while the Minister for Finance would retain ownership, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government would act on a care and maintenance basis.

A key part of that Department's remit is to facilitate a thorough investigation of the site and report to Government to allow a further Government decision on the future use of the site.

In the coming months the Government will make a decision on the future use of this potentially valuable development site. In this context the full remediation of the site to make it fit for purpose will be addressed. In the meantime all necessary interim works are and will be undertaken to contain this complex industrial legacy and absolutely minimise any impact on the local environment. It has been a feature of the local area for many decades. The steps now being taken will ultimately transform this liability into an asset for the Cork area.

Media queries:
Press and Information Office
Tel: (01) 888 2638 (direct)
(01) 888 2000
E-Mail: press-office@environ.ie
Web site: www.environ.ie


16 June 2008

Chromium Six--Again

Posted by Erin Brockovich in her Blog
16 June 2008

Chromium Six has reared its ugly head again. Now it has been found in Ireland, specifically at a former steel plant in Cork, Ireland. The plant has been closed since 2001 after twenty years in operation stockpiling masses of toxins. In 2003, the Irish Department of Environment took over responsibility for the property. Since then, they have been inventorying the site, which is now a toxic chemical dump. Not the healthiest job to do.

Here is something I have heard before, though it was someone other than the Minister for Environment John Gormley saying it:

"People will not be exposed to any health risk because of hazardous waste at Haulbowline in Cork." He says so because someone in his office says so, according to BBC news.

The statement was in reply to one of the people subcontracted to work on the site who found toxic levels of Chromium Six.

If it isn't dangerous, why did they stop work? Why close the door if you're denying the horses are out? But apparently someone has called a stop-work order. Lucky for those subcontractors and locals whose job it is to pick thru the half a million tons of hazardous materials buried at the dump site. I hope someone is heavily insured. Not that insurance, or lawsuits, or settlements help when people are doomed to die of cancer because their very environment is killing them.