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Irish Times - 24-02-05
Cork hearing told of incinerator accident
Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent

The general manager of the company behind the proposed incinerator for Ringaskiddy yesterday insisted that every step would be taken to protect human health, although he did concede that accidents can happen with incineration.

Mr John Ahern told the eighth day of the EPA oral hearing into the granting of a draft licence to Indaver Ireland that he accepted that the people of Ringaskiddy were not enthusiastic about the facility, but the company's proposal met all EU safety guidelines on emissions.

"We don't want to kill anyone and we don't want anyone to get cancer. I know a lot of people are worried about their health, but I will show how human health will be protected," he said during his presentation of evidence on behalf of Indaver Ireland.

However, questioned by con- sulting chemical engineer Mr Peter North, of East Cork for a Safe Environment, about an accident at the company's Antwerp incinerator in 2002, Mr Ahern admitted that the company had made a mistake when it commissioned designs for that plant.

Mr Ahern said Indaver had had an accidental release of dioxins from its static kiln incinerator in Antwerp in 2002 because the burner had failed to properly dispose of heavily-chlorinated waste, including dioxins.

Dioxins require a very high flame-tip temperature to thermally crack the chlorinated molecules. Because this had not occurred, the gas-cleaning system had been overwhelmed with dioxins, which were being pumped into the kiln but were not being destroyed.

This had resulted in a release of dioxins far above the company's licensed limit. But as all other indicators were signalling that the kiln was working properly, the mistake had not been detected for a number of weeks.

Mr Ahern said that such a scenario could not occur in Ringaskiddy because the incinerator proposed for there was not a static kiln model. Moreover, Indaver did not plan to use it to deal with heavily-chlorinated waste.

Mr North was strongly critical of Indaver's error when commissioning the design and of its subsequent failure to ensure that there was any way of measuring the flame-tip temperature, and he called into question's Indaver's ability to manage an incinerator.

Mr North told the inquiry: "To me, this is a major procedural management problem which has gone through a whole rake of people and is absolutely unforgivable. The people who built this, I wouldn't allow them to build, maintain or operate a garden barbecue."

Mr Ahern reiterated that the company was using different technology in Cork, but he conceded that it had made a mistake in the Antwerp design. "You are absolutely right, we made a mistake, accidents do happen," he said. "It was a mistake, a serious mistake. We acknowledged that and we have learned from it, and we apologised to the local community in Belgium . . . "

Earlier, Mr Ahern said that an incinerator had to be built in Ireland to deal with hazardous wastes because, under EU regulations, each country would have to deal with its own hazardous wastes and would have to stop exporting them.

"We want to stop being exporters of waste and build this structure in Ireland to handle our own waste. The EU wants us to do it ourselves. They wouldn't like to force us to. They are aware of Ringaskiddy and, if it fails, the EU will have to get tough.

"I know we are not welcome here. I am sorry that the site is near your homes, but it has to go somewhere. Ireland has to build an incinerator, and it has to be built somewhere," he told the objectors to the proposal.

© The Irish Times


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