Haulbowline Island, County Cork  





Environmental group questions proposed clean up at Haulbowline Island, County Cork.

Friday, 19 October, 2012

At the public meeting last week to begin the process of a licence application for the remediation of the waste on the East Tip of the Island, [1] Tony Lowes, a Director of Friends of the Irish Environment, challenged Project Director Peter Young over the extent of the cleanup. The proposal is limited to the 9 hectare waste dump on the island.


Mr. Lowes cited a Report co authored by Peter Young in 2002 [2] which identified the extent of the contamination on the island. 'This included not just the 9 hectare East Tip which is being addressed, but the 12 hectare site of the steel plant itself', Mr. Lowes told the meeting in Cobh, County Cork.


In a statement released after the meeting, Mr. Lowes quoted from Mr. Young's 2002 Report 'Phase One Investigation and Assessment at Haulbowline Island' prepared for the Department of the Marine. This Report stated:


On the Main Site, a high risk to humans from PCBs spills; a high risk to marine ecosystems from metals from dust; high to moderate risks to humans from wind-blown dust; high to moderate risks to human intruders from radioactive contamination; a moderate risk to site workers from metals in the building interiors; and high risks to groundwater from hydrocarbon process and storage spills were identified by Enviros Aspinwall.


The statement pointed out that Project Director Peter Young was also the technical expert who provided the affidavits for the 2004 High Court Case when three ministers unsuccessfully attempted to force the steel company's liquidator to remediate the site because of 'serious ongoing environmental pollution'. [3]


In his affidavit Mr. Young stated:


'unless the steps recommended in the report are undertaken,there is a serious risk that environmental pollution will continue to occur and/or is likely occur in the future.'


'I asked the Project Director, who assured the meeting of his experience at remediation of steel works sites all over Europe, if he had ever remediated a steel works site that ignored the site of the operations itself. He had no reply.'


'I produced a copy of a cross section of the island that was contained in his  2002 Report which showed that the East Tip and the Steel works were both built on reclaimed ground that would allow a path for contamination to pass undeterred across the island. I asked what was the point of a clean up that covered only half the site. He had no reply.'



Mr. Lowes also sought clarification of the Project's claim that no further material had to be exported for treatment. '115,000 tons of toxic waste was exported to Germany for treatment in 2007 with an estimated 350,000 tons remaining. [4] The Government cancelled the clean up contract under Section 8.1.4 of the contract, 'Guilty of an act which brings the Minister in disrepute or which in the Minister's opinion is prejudicial to his interests.' [5]


We are now told that the contamination levels are so low that no further material needs to be exported for treatment. [1] Did the taxpayer then pay for the unnecessary shipment of 115,000 tons of toxic material or has the remaining contamination now been leached out into the environment?'


The FIE statement claims that 'If indeed there is no longer a requirement to export material for treatment, the ring fenced sum of €40m will not be required to remediate the East Tip and there are sufficient funds available to clean up the steel plant site where the highest levels of contamination have been found. [6] While the plant building has been removed, there was no attempt to clean up the ground, the extensive collapsed drains, or the cellars, which remain congested with toxic flue dust and hazardous waste.'


'This area could be remediated solely for industrial use and offer valuable land for the expanding marine renewable energy research facilities on the island.'


The organization's statement concluded: 'The entire 21 hectare licensed area including the 12 hectares licensed for the operation of ISPAT steel must  be included in the new waste licensing process. The Project Director must come clean with the residents about the extent of the contamination which his own company has documented for more than 10 years.'

Verification and further information: Tony Lowes 027 74771 / 087 2176316





[1] Presentation at Cobh County Cork by Project Director Peter Young and others.



[2] Phase One Investigation and Assessment at Haulbowline Island, Cork Harbour, Cork, Enviros Aspinwall, Final. [For the Department of Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources] October 2002.


[3] Judgment of Carroll J. delivered the 29th day of July, 2004. [2002 No. 270 COS] The Minister for the Environment and Local Government, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment,  the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Minister for Defence, plenary summons against Irish ISPAT Limited (in liquidation), Ray Jackson, Liquidator, ISPAT Mexicana SA de CV and ISPAT International NV on the 21st May, 2003 claiming (inter alia) damages for nuisance, negligence, breach of statutory duty and for the escape of deleterious matter and breach of contract.


[4] NERG Report, August 2008

Forming part of the Safety File submitted to the DoE on 22 August 2008, this report was commissioned to quantify the remaining waste to be removed and details toxic levels far in excess of intervention levels and quantifies the remaining 'contaminated surface waste' at 350,000 tons.


[5] Documents released under Access to Information on the Environment, 30.05.08.


[6] Report on Site Investigations of Geological and Environmental Conditions, White Young Green, December 2005.



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