Day fifteen on the oral hearing began with a reply from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to Indaver’s Dixon Brosnan report, given to us on Thursday 28th April. Jervis Good from the NPWS spoke – the same man who gave to us the then Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht’s submission in the first week. He read from an article – Selck et al, 2016; in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 35: 1055-1067. Dr Good said the article discusses the possible adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems form engineered nanoparticles, and it concluded that there currently isn’t enough evidence to prove there is an effect.
Dr Good focused heavily on that point, repeating that the supposition that there is an effect has to be verified, that the knowledge available to us isn’t robust enough and there is insufficient evidence to have a reason to doubt.
My dad tells me that no scientist would normally say that having no evidence means no reason to doubt – it’s the opposite (not having evidence means there is only doubt). What Dr Good said about the article from Selck et al was that it concluded no scientific basis for reasonable doubt, but when you look at the article, which was handed out to us, it is about as strong a statement of reasonable scientific doubt as you could wish for.
Joe Noonan, solicitor for CHASE, then questioned Dr Good. He said that the EPA and Born Pleanála have a role in this, and his client want Bord Pleanála’s role to be fully carried through so that there is no reasonable scientific doubt that wildlife is safe. But, he added, addressing Dr Good, you’ve said that nanoparticles can be toxic at certain levels – and in the case of human error where there is a fault with the filtration system, can you advise the Board for this scenario?
Dr Good replied that the primary concern for the NPWS is the dioxins that would get through, and not the nanoparticles. Joe argued that we’ve been discussing nanoparticles all this time, not dioxins.
Dr Good explained why dioxins are a reason for concern for the NPWS. I’ll use a broad brush here: in the normal incineration process, stuff is burnt that produces ash and gas; the gas is cooled quickly to reduce the release of dioxins, as they form when the gas is cooled slowly. In the waste-to-energy process, you need the gas to cool slowly for energy recovery – the dioxins then appear – and we’re relying on the filters to catch them.
Joe came back with examples of the effects dioxins and other toxins can have on wildlife – for example on the survival rates of sturgeon larvae, and he told us that one part per billion dioxins in a clutch of pheasant eggs could kill half the clutch. He finished, “There is no reasonable doubt on the question of harm [to wildlife].” Dr Good said the filtration can remove such toxins.
There was then a discussion on theoretical damage versus proven damage, and laboratory conditions versus field studies.
My dad then posed questions to Jervis Good. Referencing Appendix 6.3 of the EIS, inset 5.5, pg. 18, which describes a very striking increase in levels of dioxins in mud flats around the Harbour, Dad asked if Dr Good was aware. He replied that he wasn’t and would look at the table during the break. The Inspector asked if the measurements in 2009 and 2015 had been conducted in the same lab; the Indaver people looked blankly at each other and someone said they’d check. Dad came back a minute later to tell them where their own studies were done, giving them the name and address of the lab.
On the issue of the difficulty of transferring lab findings into the natural world, dad said that couldn’t happen as you’d have to infect the ecosystem outside, so you have to reply on observations of it. Dr Good acknowledged that and said no observations have been made.
Dad then asked about a paragraph in the Dixon Brosnan report stating that particles bigger than a micrometre (which are not nanoparticles) are removed. Dad then asked Dr Good if that tells us anything about nanoparticles. The Inspector interjected to say that Dr Good didn’t write that, so it was a question for the applicant. Dad said it was about what Dr Good understood from it, so it was a question for Dr Good. But the Inspector stopped any further questioning in this direction.
Dad asked Dr Good as a closing question whether he was then just accepting uncritically what Indaver was saying about filtering out nanoparticles. Dr Good replied that the NPWS can’t comment on the efficiency of filtering. The Inspector said this was a question for the regulator, but dad said it was a question about whether Dr Good was accepting what Indaver was saying. Dr Good said that if the filtering systems run as they should, there would be no reason for doubting them.
Mamie Bowen asked if there were time or recourse restraints on Dr Good, like there have been on us, in assessing hazardous waste problems. Dr Good replied that there is a general government shortage following the financial crash and he can be working on many different cases at once.
We had a break, after which Cllr Marcia D’Alton put questions to Dr Edward Porter, Indaver expert on air quality. I was out of the room as I had work to do so I’m sorry I missed this, I heard it was awesome.
Marcia began by saying she’s not an expert on this, but – and went on to speak of her concern towards the negative effects on wildlife if the incinerator gets built. She said we know that salinity (saltiness) of water enhances the effects of nanoparticles on fish and other aquatic life, telling us that they land on the water and sink to the bottom of the lake, from where the fish eat. She said the depth of those impacts isn’t seen in the Dixon Brosnan report.
Regarding fabric filters, Marcia said research in the Netherlands shows that they don’t filter out the finer particles. The research also showed the size of particle released depended on the type of waste burnt. But none of this is in the report, Marcia said – and there was also no mention of the Walser study, on real-life incinerators, which tested what happens when you put engineered nanoparticles into an incinerator. (Basically, engineered particles go in; weird, altered particles come out.)
Dr Porter replied that, on the question of what filtration systems to use, they consulted a world leading expert on particles. He said that he’s happy that having modern filters means even ultra-fine particles get caught, but said that they’re also in ambient air and they’re satisfied there’s no increase.
Marcia reiterated that her worry is with pollutants and the effects on wild species. “I am concerned about the eco-toxological effects on the birds that we like looking at!”
Dr Porter, whom I imagine to be on shaky ground by now, waffled a bit about how they will be measuring for metals and dioxins, they’re using all the available guidance, but that he can’t demonstrate or comment on the ecological effects. He trailed off as he looked for help from one of the other experts.
The Inspector said, It’s a straightforward question for you, Dr Porter. Marcia asked again why the Walser report wasn’t referenced and asked what nanoparticles would be coming out as a result. Dr Porter waffled further, and Marcia repeated the question a number of times but didn’t get an answer. My dad asked if the Walser report was cited in the Kumar report (what the Dixon Brosnan report from Indaver is based on) and Dr Porter said it wasn’t as it was an experiment done in an incinerator; so that’s why it didn’t get referenced. So dad asked, So you mean the Kumar review is limited in scope? To which Dr Porter didn’t give an answer.
Marcia then put questions to Jervis Good on the Cork Harbour Special Protection Area (SPA). First she asked him what the SPA is, and he said it’s the mudflats around the Harbour. Marcia then said that huge numbers of habitats within the SPA are degrading, species numbers are falling, and we are out of step with the national trend in that regard. She explained that when this happens, bad habitat management is usually the problem.
Dr Good replied that the NPWS’s focus is on the key elements in the food chain – like how fish is a good source of food for some birds, as in that situation an effect on one species also affects the species that eats it.
Marcia then asked what the NPWS does if they see toxin concentrations going up. Dr Good said that that is the final element in a chain of monitoring procedures. His numbers would indicate something wrong, he added, and it would require management and quick response.
Eithne Lynch who’s very kindly written up her notes for when I was away has commented that surely the above would require time for an incinerator to be built, for the NPWS to have time to monitor the decline in species and all the negative effects, and then decide incineration causes damage?
Dad pointed out the Kumar review (of nanoparticle output from incinerators) had a 100 fold range of particles being emitted from incinerators. Dr Porter didn’t give a clear answer except that some incinerators filter better than others. Dad concluded that we don’t know, and the upper end of that range is like urban traffic.
The next question was on a paragraph in the Dixon Brosnan report (part 3) saying that particles bigger than one micrometre are removed. Dad asked, Isn’t it true that tells us nothing about nanoparticles as they’re up to thousand times smaller? Dr Porter again didn’t answer, except to mention material he hadn’t cited which the Inspector didn’t want to allow.
Rodney Daunt, control engineer and head of Daunt Instrumentation & Control Ltd., asked a question on the bag filters: what happens if they tear? Dr Porter replied that the engineers would look at it; he’s not personally involved.
John Ahern, MD of Indaver Ireland, gave us a walkthrough of the incineration process to describe the filtering and monitoring, with figure 4.11, EIS Volume 3, on the screen.
Nick Loughnan asked if the [emission monitoring on the diagram] is the same as an equivalent diagram for Carranstown, bearing in mind their nineteen breaches of carbon monoxide limits in 2014. John Ahern said that there are no environmental consequences for that. He explained further: in short, they were in breach of their licence, but not the EU Directive.
On a point of clarification, dad said the limits had actually been breached about 70 times.
Again on a tear in the bag filter, Rodney Daunt asked what method of detection Indaver have for that situation; John Ahern said they would detect a rise in dust in the stack, and a decrease in pressure. Rodney said we’re talking about very small particles, which only need a very small tear to escape, and so any drop in pressure would be minimal.
He later asked what concentration of particles would get through. In short, they’ve no idea. Nanoparticles can’t be measured in that sense, and they wouldn’t know about dioxins for two weeks. They can shut off that specific bag, and they can detect a big tear, but that’s all. Rodney was promised further information on the matter and it wasn’t provided to him.
Following lunch we had another tussle on the scheduling of my dad’s questions to Dr Fergal Callaghan, dioxin expert for Indaver. The Inspector wanted to give dad the choice between asking the questions now to Dr Porter, or possibly not being able to ask them at all – it was not clear when Dr Callaghan would be available. Dad said it wasn’t optimal to ask questions for Dr Callahan of Dr Porter, although their fields are similar, and added that the questions on dioxin risk assessment can’t be asked as they’re not ready. Dad also said it was an impossible choice between putting inadequate questions to someone who may or may not be able to answer, or not asking them at all.
Rory Mulcahy, senior counsel for Indaver, said that Dad had plenty of time to prepare questions and could’ve had them ready today. Dad argued that if we’d been told Dr Callahan would be here today, the questions would be ready – but we’ve been told he’ll arrive on Monday and are working to that schedule.
The Inspector said Monday is off the table; Dad said Tuesday is even better; the Inspector said he wanted to see the questions by 3pm on Monday.
Rodney Daunt’s questions to Indaver then began – he requested that EIS figure 4.11 be put on the screen again. His first question referred to the diagram, as the diagram appears to show no sorting of waste before it gets incinerated – Rodney asked for this to be confirmed. John Ahern replied that that’s true; the sorting of waste happens in the home with the blue, red, and brown bins etc. All that Indaver receive is residual waste.
Rodney then asked about hazardous materials getting into the incinerator – giving the example of a lithium ion battery, which gives the warning “do not burn”, How do you know I haven’t thrown it into the wrong bin?
Mr Ahern said they assume Rodney didn’t read the warning and that he put it in the wrong bin; the incinerator is built to deal with that. Rodney asked about an aerosol can or – heaven forbid – a gas cylinder; what if that went into the furnace? Mr Ahern said again that it doesn’t matter; the facility is meant to handle it.
Rosie Cargin, Kinsale Environment Watch, said that she runs an apartment business and so she sees what goes into residual bins – batteries, radios, dry recyclables – and said that to hear it’s not sorted is outrageous.
Rodney then asked what the control set point temperature of the furnace is – that’s the temperature the furnace is controlled to stay at. Grace McCormack, Quality and Environmental Manager at the Carranstown plant, replied that it’s about 990 to a thousand degrees centigrade. Rodney asked what would happen to make that vary, and Ms McCormack said a change in waste stream or a lowering of the calorific value of the waste would result in variation.
Rodney then asked if it would be Indaver’s policy to keep flow rates (gas flow through the facility) to a minimum, to then minimise dioxin emissions. I don’t believe he got a clear answer to this – Mr Ahern and Ms McCormack went on about dioxin monitoring and such. Ms McCormack said most of the industry doesn’t monitor continually for dioxins, and Rodney said that you could have critical amounts in the stack which wouldn’t show up on the dust monitor.
Mr Ahern argued that the absorbent material was still there, and they’d know something was wrong as levels of dust would rise. Rodney said what we were all thinking: you can’t monitor dioxins with a dust monitor. Mr Ahern said that dust is a good indicator; Rodney said it’s a good indicator but isn’t definite; Mr Ahern agreed.
Rodney asked again if they were going to keep flow rates of gas to a minimum and didn’t get an answer.
In his last question he asked if the weather data Indaver had collected included temperature inversions. Dr Edward Porter replied that it didn’t, as the modelling isn’t good on inversions, but there is an air model developed in the US that studied them well.
Rodney said there is a good deal of anecdotal evidence that inversions are very common in the Harbour area – fog collecting on rivers and lakes, frosty nights, etcetera – so would Indaver consider stopping the incinerator at night?
Dr Porter didn’t give a clear answer – he mentioned again the US air modelling, and said Indaver’s modelling had been validated in the Nevada desert where inversions are very frequent – I think after saying it wasn’t a good model. The Inspector said that wasn’t the question Rodney asked – Dr Porter quietly said, The answer’s no.
It was then my dad’s turn to put questions to poor Dr Porter. Dad asked where the grid coordinates given for the location of the air sampling come from, and Dr Porter said they’re from Google Earth – that’s not true. The coordinates are in UTM, a totally different system from what Google Earth uses. But UTM wasn’t mentioned by Dr Porter until Peter Daly said it later.
I don’t know how this happened but there followed an argument on coordinates, with Rory Mulcahy accusing my dad of “ambushing” them with these questions. Dad firmly said the questions were being asked now as this was the allocated time, and told Mr Mulcahy to withdraw the term.
There was a further discussion on sampling sites used for measuring levels of dioxins, before Peter Daly asked a question on the grid coordinates. Peter asked if they used UTM when doing the modelling, and Dr Porter said they did. Peter asked if AerMod (the programme used by Indaver) can accept UTM, which it can’t, and Dr Porter said it can. It emerged figure 8.13 is purely visual [and not meant for scientific interpretation].
We then had a massive dispute over the parameters that are put into the computer model to create Figure 8.13, EIS Vol. 3. The parameters are essentially the raw data you put in – in this case it’s things like weather, terrain, and the emissions coming out the stack, which all effect the end result. The model takes the data and imagines what it would look like in real life.
One problem with Figure 8.13 is that Ashley, who does the PlumePlotter pictures you’ll have seen, can’t reproduce the same pattern of pollution using AERMOD based on the data given in the EIS. Dad tried to resolve this discrepancy in the questioning of Dr Porter.
To reproduce fig. 8.13, you need the exact same parameters are used by Indaver, and that’s what dad was requesting – all the parameters. Dr Porter said twice all the information is in the EIS, which it isn’t. The Inspector didn’t appear to understand what dad was asking for.
My dad mentioned another problem with fig. 8.13: the level at which nitrogen dioxide is modelled starts at 0.7 micrograms/cubic meter of air. Everything below 0.7 is cut off, meaning there’s a whole other cloud of pollutants we don’t see in the pictures provided.
The Inspector didn’t want to let my dad follow this line of questioning – the point was to get Dr Porter to tell us what was there 0.7, and we didn’t get an answer.
Peter Daly came back with further questions on air modelling. He asked what Dr Porter did when AerMod didn’t accept UTM coordinates – I don’t have an answer noted. I noted something vague about a conversion but I don’t know if that’s relevant.
Peter later asked if Dr Porter had considered other models, and Dr Porter said that in his experience that would be unusual.
Later on dad asked if there had been any monitoring for any other type of pollutant, like PCBs, as it was found in an EPA report on mudflats around the Harbour. Dr Porter said PCBs aren’t monitored.
Marcia D’Alton reminded Dr Porter of a meteorological monitoring station put on the proposed site during the preparation for the previous application. Dr Porter acknowledged it, and Marcia asked that it be removed as it detracts greatly from the view on the path to the Martello Tower. Laughing, Dr Porter said that can be arranged. The Inspector joked it was a matter for whoever owns the site.
Just before the sitting finished, dad reiterated the question answered in section 3.1.2 of Jennifer Harmon’s witness statement on noise and vibration. The question was put by a couple living very close to the Indaver site that the noise from the incinerator would have a negative effect. Although the noise is estimated at 20 decibels, Dad said that if you live in an extremely quiet location where you can hear a plane at 35,000ft, 20db is a huge intrusion.
Monday will begin at 3pm, with questioning on coastal erosion, possibly ecology, and cultural heritage too – I can’t say we’ll get all that done that day; the session may run late.
Tuesday, most likely questions to Dr Fergal Callahan on dioxin modelling – my dad will be putting forward questions there. Anyone can ask a question, you don’t need to be an expert!
As for closing statements, I can’t give a certain day, but if you want to make one you’ll need to put your name down.
If you want your submission archived, or your questions or anything else, do send it to email@example.com – I can’t say when we’ll have time to upload them though.