THE Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director general has warned there is no system here to routinely monitor the health of people living near incinerators and waste sites.
The EPA has just granted Indaver Ireland a draft waste licence to operate a €93 million hazardous waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork and an €85m non-hazardous waste incinerator in Duleek, Co Meath. The public has 28 days to lodge objections.
But in a letter to the Department of Health seen by the Irish Examiner, the EPA director general Dr Mary Kelly warned there is no system in place to routinely monitor the health of people living near such contentious sites.
In the letter, Dr Kelly told the Dept a Health Research Board report had found that "Irish health information systems cannot support routine monitoring of the health of people living near waste sites".
The report also showed a "lack of information on the health status of residents residing near waste facilities and a lack of human health data at national, regional and county level," Dr Kelly stated.
She reminded the Dept that "the issue of adequate health information systems" was a matter for them and health boards.
In the letter to the Dept's secretary general on March 25, 2003, Dr Kelly said the EPA would support the implementation of systems which would help alleviate the concerns of people about the health impacts of these facilities.
Dr Kelly also said investigations of animal health problems in Askeaton, Co Limerick three years ago had identified a number of issues in respect of human health data which needed to be addressed
The report on Askeaton recommended a computerised system for monitoring congenital abnormalities, a system of surveillance of morbidity in general practice and the structuring of information systems in the health service to allow easy epidemiological investigation, Dr Kelly said.
Her letter was obtained by Fine Gael's Environment spokesman Fergus O'Dowd under the Freedom of Information Act.
"This shows the key issue of health and the impact of incinerators on public health is not being
addressed and the EPA has confirmed they didn't have any in-house medical expert or seek the advice or an outside expert before granting the draft waste licence for incinerators in Cork and Meath," Mr O'Dowd said.
He will be raising the issue with Environment Minister Dick Roche in the Dáil tomorrow.
The EPA confirmed last night it supported the computerisation of data and structuring of information systems within the health services.
But the two waste licences for incinerators were granted in line with World Health Organisation standards, a spokeswoman said.
The EPA is satisfied the operation of the facilities at Ringaskiddy and Duleek will be in accordance with the conditions of the licence and will not endanger human health or harm the environment, she added.
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment