07 July 2008

Toxic dump contractor 'will not be silenced'

Irish Examiner 7/7/08

THE man who blew the whistle on the Haulbowline toxic dump scandal has said he will not be silenced by the state's threat of legal action.

Environmental consultant Stephen Griffin vowed to continue to highlight what he describes as the "worst pollution incident in the history of the state". Mr Griffin was speaking last night after storm conditions swamped the toxic dump site in Cork Harbour with sea water over the weekend.

He said he was horrified when he saw the extent of the flooding of the contaminated East Tip dump site, at the edge of the former steel works plant. Gale force winds and high tides combined on Friday night to force sea water into the dump site.

The slag heap walls were also breached, allowing huge volumes of water to wash into the site and leach unknown quantities of contaminated materials back into the harbour. Mr Griffin said people should also be concerned about tidal waters seeping into the site from underneath.

"For an Environmental Protection Agency-licensed landfill, there has to be a five metre barrier between the dumped material and any watercourse," he said. "There isn't even a 1mm barrier on this dump site."

Mr Griffin is among several subcontractors who were involved in the removal of hazardous materials from the polluted island who have now been threatened with legal action by the Government.

They have been warned to respect a confidentiality clause in their terminated contracts and not release any documentation on work they did for the Department of the Environment on the former steel works site. But Mr Griffin, who came to the Irish Examiner to break the story almost two weeks ago, said he will not be silenced.

He revealed that he will spend more than €46,000 of his own money on independent and detailed soil analysis from the site to prove the extent and scale of the pollution. He also said that he is aware of a "concerted campaign" to blacken his name. "There is a concerted effort to shoot the messenger. But I will be sticking to the message," he said.

Mr Griffin confirmed he is a former commercial pig farmer who decided to get out of the business because he "couldn't stomach the environmental cost of the operation". Today, he lives by "green principles" with his wife and children in Carrigtwohill. They keep their own hens and ducks.

He said despite attempts to discredit him, he knows there is nothing anyone might produce that will prevent him from highlighting the Haulbowline scandal. "I just couldn't walk away from this one. I don't believe anyone would have done that."


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