07 July 2008

Residents fear plant's toxic waste seeped into harbour

The Irish Times 7/7/08

RESIDENTS OF Cobh in Co Cork have expressed concern that gale-force winds and a high tide may have caused potentially toxic waste from the old steel plant site on Haulbowline to seep into the sea at Cork Harbour. Cobh residents became worried on Friday night after a high tide and gale-force winds caused pools of water to form in the middle of the slag heap on the old Ispat site on Haulbowline.

Mayor of Cobh John Mulvihill jnr said local residents should not be expected to live in dread every time there was a high tide in the harbour.

He insisted that the situation needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency to allay public fears.

“The people of Cobh are in a vacuum regarding information. The Minister [John Gormley] said he was going to publish all the reports that were being done on the site back in the Dáil on Wednesday. I was talking to all our local TDs and they have not received any reports.

“That ought to raise some serious questions. We need to get these reports out in the open and let the people of Cobh know what is over there.

“We need to get the problem sorted out in the town.”

Mr Mulvihill added that he did not want to be alarmist, but that the people of Cobh “deserved better” from their elected representatives.

Meanwhile, local environmental engineer and councillor Marcia Dalton told RTÉ News that until full reports had been compiled in relation to the site, residents would continue to worry about the magnitude of the problem.

“This is not the first time since Ispat closed in 2001 that there have been strong easterly winds with high tides. This may have occurred before.

“Until we see analysis and we establish what is going on, we don’t know the magnitude of the concern we should have.”

The controversy arose in Cork last month after it was disclosed that almost 500,000 tonnes of waste are buried at the former Irish Steel/Ispat site.

Health fears were raised after a subcontractor involved in a surface clearance at the site claimed to have uncovered levels of a toxin, chromium six.

Mr Gormley has denied suggestions that there was any attempted cover-up of the Haulbowline toxic waste issue.

However, residents of Cobh said that they feared that pressure on the public finances could delay the clean-up of toxic waste at the site.


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