I began the fifth day by sleeping through my alarm for an hour. I forgot my coat in the rush to leave the house – I didn’t want to lose my seat to TDs Simon Coveney or Micheál Martin.
Parking was out of the question, the room was fuller than it’s been since day one, and RTÉ had flagged their territory outside.
You could tell the Inspector, Derek Daly, was wearing one of his better suits. Anyway he began at ten by reading a statement in reply to numerous requests that he seek legal advice on who the applicant actually is. The hearing is for the purposes of collecting information, submissions, and allowing Indaver to respond, he said, and it will go ahead.
First submission came from Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Defence, and the Marine, and TD for Cork South-Central.
He began by reading a letter sent to him from Junior Minister Paudie Coffey, which explains why the ministerial order was imposed on Cork County Council to change their County Development Plan to include incineration with energy recovery. Minister Coffey says that the order wasn’t issued in respect of just one proposed facility in Cork, but because the draft CDP wasn’t in line with the government’s waste policy, A Resource Opportunity. [This order ignored the will of the councillors, who unanimously voted against the Ringaskiddy incinerator.]
He gave a PowerPoint presentation, in which he began by saying the application is contrary to government policy, from a maritime, educational, and tourism perspective. He showed us pictures of the Haulbowline Island master plan, and of master plans for Spike Island and IMERC. Then we saw an aerial image of the Harbour, with the three sites names above in yellow – and the proposed Indaver site in red.
Simon said he’s not going to judge Indaver, and not going to judge the incineration industry, but just from the perspective of the new developments in the Harbour, this site is unsuitable.
He told us how ambitious and important the Spike Island project is, and said it is of significance from a national point of view, and a marine tourism point of view.
IMERC, €15m – don’t doubt the state’s commitment to this, he said.
We then saw the ugliest picture of Haulbowline Island that Simon could find online. What’s on the east tip is a result of an irresponsible steel industry, he said, and €8m this year will be invested in reversing that. We saw a picture of the plans they have for the island, including the yacht racing club and the refurbishment of the naval base.
In 2011, Simon told us, none of these master plans existed – none of this money had been invested. It is more important now than then for An Bord Pleanála to reject. It’s a €25bn commitment – real money, real government decisions – that will be undermined if the application is accepted.
Simon endorsed the concerns put forward by Commandant Browne in the Department of Defence’s objection at the hearing on Friday, including that a no-fly zone may be required for helicopters and aircraft because of emissions from the stack.
He gave concerns on planning and procedure – there are outstanding concerns from 2011, he said; like the reasons for refusal around coastal erosion not having been considered. He hopes the next government will continue with the extensive redevelopment of Cork Harbour.
This is me speaking now – there has been a general consensus around my family and friends and those present at the hearing that it’s a game-changer that the Minister for Defence and the Dept. itself have put in objections. Especially when Simon himself said that the State don’t want this development to go ahead – that didn’t sink for me in until my dad wrote it on paper.
Micheál Martin TD, leader of Fianna Fáil, began with a number of points relating to the resilience of the community against the Novartis application in the late 80’s. “The community have gone through a lot,” he said, continuing to say that they will be put at risk from increased traffic, air pollution, and over-development of the Harbour.
He spoke of the focused hub of research and education at the Harbour, and that at the forefront of that is the Navy. The idea of letting Indaver near the Harbour “flies in the face of it [the hub].”
“Cork Harbour is a national asset,” Micheál said, “what is proposed damages that … If this is let ahead, in 20, 30, years’ time, people will be visiting and they’ll ask, Who in the name of God let this happen?”
That got a laugh from the audience.
Micheál spoke of how the need for incineration has reduced considerably from 16 years ago, when Indaver first came to Ireland, because of the upward trend of recycling. “I don’t see the imperative for this incinerator at this location.”
He raised the question, is this actually a waste-to-energy facility? It doesn’t meet the R1 targets, he said, and in essence it is disposal and not recovery.
Micheál then took the chance to complain about rush hour. (I’m only joking.)
Already the congestion is enormous, he told us. The M28 won’t be finished by 2021; the trucks transporting waste will be an unacceptable burden to the area. He said the suggestion that the trucks can avoid peak hours is unrealistic – the traffic is a nightmare, and this will just be adding to it; it will make life totally impossible.
Given the history of the proposal, and the history of this site, and the unanimous view against this in the community, and among the public representatives, “the issue is now, where does one say stop? Where does one say stop?”
Given the threat to people living in the area, he continued, bringing up their children here, settling down here, “it’s time to call it off … Stop any further encroachment to people’s lives,” Micheál concluded, to applause.
Frank Kelleher was next to speak; he’d worked on five prosecutions against Irish Ispat, has been living in the area for 30 years, and has never previously objected to a development in the local area.
He began by bringing back the issue of who the applicant really is. He said that instruments should be produced to clarify this.
Indaver Ireland is a business name of Indaver NV, not a legal entity, he told us. We were given three examples: a letter from Indaver Ireland to the Southern Region Waste Management Office, but in the corner of the page it gives the name as Indaver Ireland Ltd; the application is from Indaver Ireland, and again in the corner we see Indaver Ireland Ltd; and a third time, in a letter apologising for this “clerical error”, it is from Indaver Ireland, but the company name is stated as Indaver Ireland Ltd.
Frank asked, So who were the Board actually consulting with? Indaver Ireland Ltd, who is a stranger to this process; Indaver Ireland, who is not a legal entity; or Indaver NV?
We had a short break at half eleven, when I rushed off for a cup of tea – very kindly paid for by Mamie Bowen, as a thank you for these very reports. En route back to the hall I met Micheál Martin – we chatted briefly. I said it was a great speech he made; he asked my name, I said I’m Catriona Reid, representative of the Green Party; generally people think I’m in college, and so did Micheál; I said I will be in two years, I’m home educating at the moment. He asked how it’s working out, I said it’s a lot better than being in school in terms of freedom to study what you want.
Looking back on Micheál’s speech, it was good in terms of how it was delivered, as you’d expect, but I do think it will help the campaign – the same goes more so for Simon Coveney’s submission and the Department of Defence’s submission.
I returned to my seat literally just in time for Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire’s objection. He reiterated the statement from the Dept. of Defence, and acknowledged that government departments generally don’t put in objections at all. He brought up the point raised in Green candidate for CSC Lorna Bogue’s objection – on whether sealed vehicles would be used to transport bottom ash. He referenced the submissions from his constituency colleagues that morning in saying that the Harbour is a national asset, and said it is significant that so many public representatives are united against the incinerator and are being vocal about the issue. Donnchadh said his party – Sinn Féin – have long been opposed to the Strategic Infrastructure Act and how unfairly it can be used, and that it is being used for a third time.
Mark Keane from PDFORRA introduced the next two speakers – first was David Butler, who is based on Haulbowline Island. David told us that there are 150 civilian workers on the island, including people working 24/7; about 20 people are there on courses and their accommodation is at full capacity. In total, up 1,100 people could be on Haulbowline island at any one time.
The second speaker, whose name I didn’t catch, told us that in the event of an incident at the incinerator, the naval services can no longer rely on small craft to evacuate the island. They now only have one ship, and depending on weather conditions, it could take hours to evacuate.
Mark Keane came back to say that if the L2545 became impassable, Haulbowline would be completely isolated. “It’s been refused twice; Indaver, this isn’t third time lucky.”
We then heard objections from staff at the NMCI and related institutes: Gordon Dalton, Paul Leahy, and Jody Power. They spoke on subjects like the air modelling used by Indaver to determine the spread of air pollutants – criticised it, saying that it simply wasn’t representative of what’s actually happening, and that the Board can’t trust it. He showed us the difference in air circulation when there is a wind turbine next to a plume and when there isn’t. We saw a map of the site with the turbine highlighted, and told how the turbine will always interact with the plume: either the plume will be sucked into the turbine, or blown away.
Jody Power began his objection by saying work at the NMCI would be compromised if odour or noise from the incinerator would be an issue. What if there was an explosion and the smoke blew towards the campus and its 500 students? What if the helicopter engine was damaged by the plume? There is no such thing as a factory that works 100% well 100% of the time, he reminded us.
In California, Jody said, where they take their air quality very seriously, ships are not allowed to burn fuel within a certain distance from the shore – a ship was fined $130,000 for breaching this rule.
He also touched on the subject of traffic congestion and possible further damage to the NMCI. Will students from overseas want to study at the college with Indaver next door? There are limitations of campus expansion – they can’t build student accommodation with an incinerator so close.
At the end of his submission Gordon Dalton said something that really stuck in my mind. There will be a loss of academics, he said, and I will leave the college if this proposal goes through. Many people may not apply for work here any longer, and he said other staff members may leave too.
My lunch today was an energy bar and a hot chocolate. At 2.15pm we heard from Peter Daly, former chief emergency management officer for the HSE. He began with outlining the executive’s role as a prescribed body, quoting from sections 7(1) and 7(5) of the Health Act 2004. He went on to question claims made that Indaver had met with the HSE before putting in the application, as said in their EIS (sec 1.8 of appendix 1.2 (Consultation)). He said that to his knowledge, no such meetings took place, and if they did minutes could be made available.
He went on to criticise the written submission made by the HSE to the Board, bringing up how the Public Health Department of the HSE was not consulted when the objection was being written. Later he recommended that instead of relying on the information given to the Board by Indaver on the Antwerp explosion, that the information be sourced from the relevant Belgian authority who responded to the fire.
Peter Daly also spoke of the risk to responders on the scene of a fire at the incinerator. He referenced the HAZID report by Byrne Ó Cléirigh Limited, which said that a fully developed fire in the waste storage bunker could last for up to a week – if the bunker is full to capacity – depending on what kind of waste is there.
As part of his conclusion, Peter asked why no provisions have been made for a district heating system for the excess from the incinerator? He answered that the district heating is complete fiction, only raised to answer the efficiency problem.
Afterwards we had a deal of back and forth between Indaver, Peter Daly, and members of CHASE on the issue of Indaver holding private meeting with prescribed bodies. John Ahern gave a list of people from Indaver present at the meeting between them and the HSE; it was called by a number of people that minutes of the meeting be produced, and Mary O’Leary reminded us how we were told we’d hear of any other meetings of this sort, and we didn’t. She said she was disappointed in how this is being handled.
The next objection came from Mamie Bowen – she covered many issues, from site suitability, to the reduced need for incineration, to the heritage and history being put at risk by the application.
She said the Harbour is the most renowned worldwide, and it brings in the most money from tourism in Ireland. “It is the most inviting place for cruise liners.”
She spoke of the geological significance of Gobby Beach. She said how, in the 60’s, you could see the sea from Ringaskiddy town – and now with the buildings and industry lining the coast, the only place to see the sea is the beach.
Logistics, she mentioned, in relation to traffic to and from the site; how will that work? Where will the ash be stored before being moved on to Bottlehill? What about the smell resulting from that?
Her conclusion was that the economics only make sense for Indaver, not for the people of Cork.
Last to speak was Roma Fulton from Kinsale Environment Watch. She began by saying how her group is aware that they are in the fallout zone of air emissions, and she acknowledged the cancer clusters around the area, and said the incinerator will add to this. She said nor Indaver or the EPA can be trusted to make sure we are kept safe – and she gave an exact definition of “safe”.
She spoke about the Netherlands, how their circular economy is well under way and in the future, no incineration capacity will be needed. Rona said that already Europe has enough capacity, and that the burning of finite resources is unsustainable, and she implored the Board to reject the application for those reasons, and everything else raised at this hearing.
Just before adjournment at 4.30pm, Rory Mulcahy SC gave us a walkthrough of a list of calculations we were given earlier attempting to prove that the incinerator would meet the R1 criteria.
Tomorrow (26th Apr) the hearing will begin at 10am, adjourn at 12pm, there might be an early evening session but I’m not sure – and the highlight is the 6-8pm slot for those who cannot be there during the day to speak. Apologies in advance if the report on that evening session is late.