05 July 2008

Polluted land was proposed for marina

By Paul Melia and Olivia Kelleher
The Independent 5/7/08

THE Government proposed turning the contaminated Haulbowline Island in Cork harbour into one of the most "attractive waterside sites in Europe".

The plan was outlined just a year after a major report said the site posed a potential risk to human health, and would have included 200 apartments, a hotel, offices and a 225-berth marina.

The then enterprise minister, Cork TD Micheal Martin, announced in 2006 that a high-level group of senior civil servants would submit proposals to transform the former Irish Steel site into an "attractive place to live, work and do business".

But yesterday it emerged that officials have not made contact with the Department of the Environment to see what works need to be carried out to make the site safe, despite a 2005 report which outlined the possible risks to human health.


It also emerged that four investigations have been carried out on the site, which is described as the most polluted in Ireland after 50 years of steel production.

Two reports were carried out between 1995-2002, with another 2002 study by Enviros Aspinwall carried out on behalf of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. It warned that the site posed a 'high' risk to human health, while a 2005 report for the Department of the Environment from White, Young, Green found there was a 'moderate' risk to human health if homes were built on the site.


Mr Martin's ambitious plan to redevelop the area has been put on hold, the Department of Enterprise said yesterday, saying that while the high-level group had met several times, the plan had been shelved pending further investigations.

Mr Martin was not available for comment.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Willie O'Dea also ordered a investigation into possible health risks for members of the Irish Navy serving at Haulbowline, to run in tandem with a separate study commissioned by the Department of the Environment.

He rejected opposition calls to provide health checks for serving members, saying the Defence Forces provided annual medical examinations and health screening and there was "no indication" that the site posed health risks to Naval Service personnel or civilian employees.

The Government was also warned by the Fine Gael health spokesman, Dr James Reilly, that it could expose the State to huge amounts of litigation if it failed to order an immediate independent health impact assessment of the Haulbowline site.


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