Polluted land was proposed for marina


The Irish Independent has reported that the Government had proposed turning the contaminated Haulbowline Island in Cork harbour into one of the most 'attractive waterside sites in Europe'.

The plan - outlined just a year after a major report warned of a potential risk to human health - included 200 apartments, a hotel, offices and a 225-berth marina.

The then enterprise minister, Cork TD Micheál 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".

However, it has emerged that officials have not made contact with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government 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.

The Irish Independent has also learned 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, Heritage and Local Government - from White, Young, Green - found there was a 'moderate' risk to human health if homes were built on the site.

White Young Green divided the 20-hectare site into two parts for examination - the main steel plant adjacent to the naval base and the East Tip, which had been built up over decades by dumping slag from the plant on the foreshore. However, the examination was confined to areas outside the steelworks buildings, resulting in some 50 per cent of the main steelworks site being excluded from the investigation - which involved sampling of soil, groundwater and marine sediment.

The consultants assessed each part of the site for elements like arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel and dioxins and for possible future use - including residential, public open space and commercial/industrial.

They concluded that there was a 'moderate' risk to human health and environmental receptors in the event of a residential or open public space use - while they assessed the risk as 'low to moderate' if the site was remediated for commercial/industrial use.

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

Defence Minister, Willie O'Dea has 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, Heritage and Local Government.

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

The Government was also warned by 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.

Source - The Irish Independent