26 June 2008

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.

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