28 July 2008

Moustache forever? O'Dea answers your questions

By Paul O'Brien, Political Correspondent
Irish Examiner 28/7/08

THE need to "tighten the belt" because of the economic squeeze should not mean cutting anybody's wages - politicians included, Defence Minister Willie O'Dea has said.

In the first of a new series in which Irish Examiner readers get to quiz members of the Cabinet, Mr O'Dea answers questions on a wide range of issues today - from the Lisbon Treaty to The Simpsons television show.

... Elsewhere, Mr O'Dea says there are no indications that the toxic waste at the former Irish Ispat/Steel plant in Haulbowline, Co Cork, poses a threat to those working on the naval base which is in close proximity.

When demolition of the steelworks at the plant commenced in 2005, dust-monitoring equipment was installed.

"The data collected to date does not suggest that activities on the steelworks site have had a significant impact on the environment or might pose a threat to the Naval Services at Haulbowline," Mr O'Dea says.

As a precaution, the Department of Defence has hired consultants to carry out soil and air analysis across the naval base.

... What health concerns from toxic emissions would you, as Minister for Defence, have in respect of Indaver's proposed site for a toxic and municipal incinerator being so close to our Navy in Haulbowline, Co Cork, and at the entrance to the new National Maritime College, bearing in mind that the prevailing winds are mostly from the south-west?

M BOWEN, Glenville, Co Cork

The proposed waste management facility at Rinagskiddy has been the subject of a most vigorous examination by both Cork County Council and An Bord Pleanála in terms of the planning process and the Environmental Protection Agency in relation to the application for a waste licence. An Bord Pleanála attached 27 stringent conditions to its planning permission. I am satisfied that the various agencies involved in consider- ing this project have had due regard to the likely impact of the facility on the locality and that all concerns have been addressed.

Both the decision of An Bord Pleanála and the waste licence are the subject of judicial review by the High Court, so I cannot really comment any further.

Can you give assurances that the toxic waste buried on the old Irish Steel/Ispat site on Haulbowline poses no threat to the navy?

D McCARTHY, Bishopstown, Cork city

The health and safety of all Defence Force personnel and employees is of primary concern to me. There is currently no indication that the situation at the former Ispat site represents any risk to the health of Naval Service personnel or civilian employees at the naval base.

When demolition of the steelworks at Haulbowline commenced in the summer of 2005, it was agreed by all interested parties that dust monitoring equipment be installed on the naval base. The monitoring equipment selected and installed in two locations on the base includes Bergerhoff dust deposition gauges, to record total dust fall-out on a monthly basis, and PM-10 monitors to record the respirable fraction of fine dust in real time. In layman's terms, this means that dust-generating events on the steelworks site can be identified and controlled as they happen.

The data collected to date does not suggest that activities on the steelworks site have had a significant impact on the environment or might pose a threat to the Naval Services at Haulbowline.

Purely as a precautionary measure - following the excavations on the East Tip - we have engaged environmental consultants RPS Group plc. They will carry out sampling and conduct soil and air analysis across the naval base checking for heavy metals and other species. This investigation has already commenced. It is expected to be completed by the end of August.

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