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Southern Star - 01-12-05
Councillors still oppose incinerator
By Frank O’Donovan and Leo McMahon

CORK county councillors this week re-stated their opposition to the siting of hazardous and non-hazardous waste incinerators in Cork harbour, despite the granting of waste management licences to Indaver Ireland by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Councillors voted by 23 votes to 11 to support a motion by Sinn Fein councillor Martin Hallinan to oppose locating the E133 million development at Ringaskiddy and to call on Environment Minister Dick Roche to change Government policy that currently favours incineration.

Fianna Fail members of the council tried to have the motion amended to opposition to the siting of the incinerators in Ringaskiddy with no reference to the Government’s pro-incineration policy. They voted against the motion when this failed, so most of the support for the motion came from Fine Gael and Labour councillors.

Mr Hallinan pointed to the depth of opposition from the people of Cork to the incinerator, adding that the planning process had not reflected the democratically expressed wishes of the people. He pointed out that An Bord Pleanala’s own inspector recommended refusal of the planning application, which had been turned down by Cork County Council, but permission was granted.

The Youghal-based councillor also claimed that a report on dioxin levels released by the EPA in October showed high level of dioxins in the harbour area.

"The Government could still halt the incinerator, we should write to the Government to demand a change in incinerator policy," said Mr Hallinan.

Mr Noel Collins (Ind.) said the proposal to site an incinerator in Ringaskiddy "has stunk to high heaven". Giving the go-ahead to the project was an affront to democracy given that the World Health Organisation (WHO) said dioxins were a major health hazard and Greenpeace described incinerators as "cancer factories".

Mr John Mulvihill (Lab) said trying to get the decision reversed at this stage was closing the gate when the horse had bolted. The EPA, which couldn’t monitor even the existing industries in the harbour, had failed the people of Cork, he claimed. People were afraid to live in the lower harbour, where instances of cancer had risen, because of the health threat.

"Minister Roche himself said he wouldn’t accept an incinerator in Wicklow but (Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister) Micheal Martin has remained very quiet about it at Cabinet level. We should lobby all local T.D.s not to put this incinerator in because we can’t trust the EPA," he said.

Earlier the Minister for State at the Department of the Environment, Batt O’Keeffe, said that he fully supported the Government’s pro-incinerator policy but he had reservations about the suitability of the Ringaskiddy site.

Mr Tim Lombard (FG) said this was an extraordinary statement from the junior minister in the key Government department." He can surely stop it if he wants to. This is a political issue and political will can stop it. The onus is on Minister O’Keeffe and the Fianna Fail party to stop this," he said.

Mr Michael McGrath (FF) said the only thing that could stop the incinerator would be the upcoming judicial review proceedings in the High Court. There were five incinerators already in Ringaskiddy, so a change in policy that required a complete ban on incineration could close down some of the pharmaceutical industries in the harbour area.

Meanwhile, angry residents in the lower harbour area and environmental groups have pledged to continue their steadfast campaign of opposition to the incinerator following last week’s announcement by the EPA to grant a licence.

In a statement the EPA, which also granted a licence for the proposed Indaver incinerator at Duleek, Carranstown, Co. Meath, said it was satisfied that operation of facilities in accordance with the" stringent conditions" laid down would not endanger human health or harm the environment in the vicinity of both facilities over a wide area.

The EPA continued that the licence conditions, which met the highest standards set by the E.U. Incineration of Waste Directive 2000, required:

* Best available technology is used for the incineration of waste and abatement of emissions (e.g. dioxins).

* All emissions comply with the E.U. directive.

* Monitoring data, including real time data, is made available on the internet.

* Indaver will undertake extensive communication with companies in proximity to the facilities.

* Construction of each facility is closely supervised and independently certified as fit-for-purpose.

* Senior management will have appropriate expertise in managing incinerators.

The EPA said it made the decision having considered the report of the chairman and submissions made at its oral hearings in Cork and Meath earlier this year and strengthened both licences accordingly.

The agency directed that the Office of Environmental Enforcement will monitor and enforce the licence conditions through a comprehensive and ongoing programme of environmental audits, unannounced site visits and systematic checks on emissions. The EPA itself will carry out a programme of monitoring to be agreed on with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Following the EPA decision to grant a licence, there is now a two month period during which a judicial review can be sought and Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE), one of the bodies strongly opposed to the incinerator, is considering availing of this.

In a statement, CHASE said the decision by the EPA to grant a waste licence to Indaver Ireland to operate the incinerator came as no surprise. "We will now study the decision with our legal advisors and consult with the group before deciding how best to further our objectives.

"We believe the outcome was never in doubt because the EPA previously granted a draft licence in 2004 and then the EPA adjudicated over its own decision at the oral hearing which, incidentally, its board of directors refused to attend," said a spokeswoman.

CHASE, the spokeswoman told The Southern Star, had no confidence in the EPA’s ability to make a reasoned and fully informed decision about health, especially when it did not avail of the opportunity to request any further medical information at the hearing and ignored compelling medical evidence presented by national and international medical experts.

This evidence revealed, for example, that damage to health was occurring even at permitted licence units. No medical expertise was available within the EPA nor had the applicant undertaken a community health impact assessment. By granting the licence, the EPA had not fulfilled its legal obligations and was therefore exposing the public to unnecessary harm, CHASE added.

Ringaskiddy and District Residents’ Association, which has led the campaign of opposition, is currently awaiting a judicial review hearing in the High Court on the planning permission granted by An Bord Pleanala to Indaver Ireland.

Chairman of the association, Braham Brennan, said the decision by the EPA was not unexpected, because he didn’t believe it listened to ordinary people in an area of Cork Harbour with twice the national average level of dioxins and other issues of concern which it recently discussed with the agency at a meeting in the community centre.

The association was prepared to go all the way to Europe to prevent Ringaskiddy becoming a dumping ground for toxic waste, he warned.

The Green Party’s Dail Deputy for Cork South Central, Dan Boyle, said the conditions attached to the licence could have been written by the applicant and argued that the EPA decision would do nothing to assuage public feelings that the development of a toxic waste facility was unnecessary and dangerous."

Managing director of Indaver Ireland, John Ahern said his company must now assess the tough conditions attached to the licences to ensure that its facilities can be operated with maximum health and environmental protection while providing an economically sustainable solution for Ireland’s waste.

"Incineration, or waste-to-energy, is an important element of an integrated waste management system which Ireland will require if it is to develop a modern system for both hazardous and non-hazardous waste, similar to regions with high environmental standards such as Sweden, Austria, Germany or Belgium," he said.

Ireland currently relied on the goodwill of other countries in Europe to accept this type of waste. This was a situation that was unsustainable since Ireland was expected to play its part by managing its own waste," he added.

Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, in noting the EPA decision, said stringent conditions were attached and he stressed the independence of the EPA in the process and the rigorous standards applied which met and even exceeded international best practice.

"If the environmentally least favourable option of landfill is to be minimised, we must place a significant emphasis on appropriately regulated use of incineration with energy recovery in the form of electricity or district heating," he added.


Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment
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