THE State must erect signage at the entrance to Haulbowline Island and the new East Tip park notifying the public of the health risk from toxic airborne dust, fibres, and gases.
That’s according to environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) whose solicitor has issued letters to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, and Cork County Council’s chief executive officer calling for the action.
The letters come after FIE obtained and published on its website a March 2017 report which they claimed detailed threats to human health and safety from the former steel factory site on Haulbowline Island.
FIE said: ‘The State has completed the remediation of the nine hectare East Tip and agreed with the European Commission in 2015 that €61m would be ring fenced for an ‘all-island’ clean up as part of the settlement of a 2005 waste case judgment by the European Court of Justice against Ireland. However, work has now finished but no applications have been made to the EPA for a licence to clean up the remaining 11 hectares of the steel site itself, although this area shows the highest levels of some heavy metals like chromium.’
FIE director Tony Lowes, who first reported the pollution to the European Commission in 2009, said: ‘The public has a right to know about toxic dust and lead emissions into the air and water around the island so they can decide for themselves what precautions to take.’
In response, Cork County Council said: ‘Cork County Council wishes to advise that the comments made by FIE, in relation to users of the newly rehabilitated park on the East Tip of Haulbowline Island being at significant risk to human health, are inaccurate and misleading.
‘The report referenced by FIE was commissioned by Cork County Council, at the request of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), and relates to the 11 hectare former steel works (factory) site only and not to the 9 hectare remediated Haulbowline Island Recreational Park. This 11 hectare site is fully secured, in a different location away from the remediated park and is not accessible to the public … The report does not specify any risk to future users of Haulbowline Island Recreational Park.’
Mr Lowes said this week: ‘We want all the information held by the authorities to be put into the public domain so that the public can make their up their own minds about the pollution on the island. If the Minister [for Marine] is 100% certain that there is absolutely no risk to users of Haulbowline Island and Cork Harbour then we need to hear that directly. If there is any doubt, given the extreme toxicity of this site, then the public must be warned.’