09 July 2008

Navy calls for assurances of safety at Haulbowline

By Ralph Riegel
The Independent 9/7/08

DEFENCE Force unions want safety assurances before any expansion of Ireland's only Naval base on to the former Irish Steel site, which contains toxic waste.

PDFORRA is now monitoring the environmental and health row over the clean-up operation at Haulbowline Island in Cork harbour amid disputed claims about the nature and volume of toxic waste stored at the island.

One contractor has claimed that potentially up to 500,000 tonnes of toxic waste remains at the former steel mill site -- some of which includes mercury, Chromium 6, zinc and even heavy metals. Environmental contractor Stephen Griffin said that the entire controversy could have been avoided if the concerns of his firm been properly acted upon.

Cork TD Ciaran Lynch (Labour) has now vowed to seek a Dail adjournment debate to clarify the claim that substantial quantities of slag material was apparently removed from Haulbowline for use in road construction.

Environment Minister John Gormley has already agreed to bring proposals to the Cabinet for a health study of the harbour after revelations from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) that cancer detections in Cobh were 44pc above the national average.

But Mr Gormley has denied that the former Irish Steel site poses a major public health risk.

The row has effectively suspended long-term plans by the State for Haulbowline Island to be transformed into a leisure and marine centre -- with smaller sections of the old Irish Steel site being handed over to the Naval Service.

Ireland's only Navy base is on the other half of Haulbowline Island. Navy commanders have been keen to secure additional "elbow room" at the site. However, Navy unions now want firm assurances about the environmental and health status of the land involved before any such expansion proceeds.


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