It was a very soft day outside today, on day four; you got the impression that the rain was there but you couldn’t see it. I was skirting around the grass because these shoes are velvet on the outside and anything sticks.
First on the agenda was the submission from the Department of Defence. Judy Creeny from the Department introduced Commandant Browne, who spoke of the negative effects exhaust gasses and fumes emitting from the incinerator would have on helicopter engines. He gave the example of a helicopter in Dublin that had a failed engine after it flew through such a plume.
What if there was a serious incident at the plant? Haulbowline Island couldn’t be evacuated and it couldn’t be accessed.
Obstruction lighting on the top of the stack is a must: the light must also be visible to night-vision/infrared cameras.
Rory Mulcahy, senior counsel for Indaver, who is beginning to remind me of Sir Humphrey from ‘Yes, Minister’, said it is unfortunate that concerns weren’t raised before, and they would get back to the Department with further details.
Ken Curtin asked what the implications are for storing ammunition on Haulbowline; Commandant Browne replied that he had no information in relation but would also get back on that point.
Ken then requested to the Inspector that a copy of submissions/documents given to us by speakers at the hearing be put on display on a table, for example, so those who do not have a copy can view it. Ken also mentioned how it is not ideal to have to pay to read certain articles cited in many papers given to us.
Dr Jervis Good from the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, spoke again today. He presented us with a short document further addressing Cllr Marcia D’Alton’s question yesterday on adverse effects from nanoparticles on the animal kingdom. In the document he referred to papers written on the subject, one of which confirmed that nanoparticles have had physiological effects on mussels.
Another paper stated that due to the continuous production of nanoparticles, their uptake and effects had on aquatic biota were of major concern. It ended with the recommendation that a review of the likely effects of nanoparticles on wildlife is conducted, and made part of the NIS.
We were given a few pages of correspondence between Indaver and the EPA in relation to an audit that was to be carried out on energy efficiency at their Carranstown facility, within a year of operation commencing, and a few pages detailing the nature of the audit.
A short break was taken at five to eleven.
After the break David Stanton, Fine Gael TD for Cork East, gave his objection to the Board. He stated that unless the Dunkettle Interchange is upgraded, serious congestion issues would arise because of the increase in HGVs. He described Cork Harbour twenty years ago, before my time, when it was dusty and dirty and polluted; compared to now when 60 cruise liners visit the Harbour annually, Spike Island is being redeveloped to attract tourists and investors, and Cork Harbour is now a place of beauty.
East Cork is a hub of agriculture, he told us, and this development will badly affect food and dairy production. “The proposed development should be rejected.”
Úna Chambers, Carrigaline representative of CHASE, stood to the microphone to remind us of what the people of Carranstown went through. Five months after the Meath incinerator started operating, she told us, Indaver reapplied for their licence to change the waste the facility dealt with from municipal to hazardous. She then posed the question: if Indaver are granted permission, will they reapply in five months for a waste transfer station?
The Inspector replied that he couldn’t read into the future, and he said he’d looked into the history of the Carranstown incinerator and confirmed that an additional application was made.
Úna replied that the local community here were told Indaver weren’t coming back for a third time. “Our experience is yes, they have come back.” In Meath they had their licence changed without the community having their say. She asked again for a guarantee that a waste transfer station wouldn’t be built in Ringaskiddy. The Inspector said the Board doesn’t have direct influence over the matter.
The Green Party’s Lorna Bogue gave her submission to the board. She began by addressing inadequate responses by expert witnesses to questions posed by her in her written submission. Lorna sought clarification on whether sealed vehicles were to be used to transport bottom ash to landfill, and repeated her question on whether contaminated water from the site [during normal operations] would go into the harbour [or into the ground, contaminating the groundwater].
She later asked for a definitive answer on when a pedestrian crossing would be built across the N28 road through Ringaskiddy, and asked what specifically Indaver would do by way of upgrading the L2545 access road to the site.
Lorna asked the Council Executive, why did they choose to ignore the views of the councillors to oppose the incinerator? And did the Executive issue a letter of complaint to Minister for the Environment on his imposing on them that they add incineration to the CDP?
Lorna spoke of the cost the local community had to bear by going through this process three times. “They bear this cost because they have a vision of what they want their community to look like […].” She implored the Board to take into account the simple wish of the people to not have an incinerator in their town.
Lorna then moved on to take a general look at waste policy in Ireland. She told us that there is enough incineration capacity in Ireland – with this plant it will bring us up to 1,060,000 tonnes. She called on the government to bring back the incineration levy; she said recycling is on an upward trend, and incineration will hurt this.
Finally, she asked the Board to ask themselves whether this infrastructure was really needed on land that is obviously unsuitable, for so many reasons.
I would have liked to go into more detail in writing the last few paragraphs, but I’d run out of space! On several occasions during her speech the audience interrupted with shouts of “Hear Hear!” and to clap in support.
The Inspector invited Indaver to comment; they did not wish to. Only on the issue of road improvements (N28 I presume), Rory Mulcahy SC said it was a matter for the council.
Gertie O’Driscoll sparked off a further discussion about whether we had a valid application in front of us or not. She said, “You [An Bord Pleanála, Indaver] are being paid to waste your time; we’re here on a voluntary basis.” Do we have a valid application here or not? she asked.
The Inspector noted her question, and said he couldn’t give an immediate answer but it is a matter that needs serious consideration. Gertie demanded that we get answers – by Monday, she said; seek advice and answer us on Monday.
Finbarr O’Flaherty of RRA added that it is of much significance if the application is invalid, because that would make the hearing illegal, and it should be adjourned until an answer is found. He asked the Inspector directly: have you made An Bord Pleanála aware? The Inspector replied that off the record he had consulted other parties in the Board.
I turned around to realise that the audience were standing! Several had begun shouting “Adjourn! Adjourn!” including my mom.
The Inspector said it was important to make the distinction between a public notice and a planning application. Ken Curtin also called for an adjournment; stating that there was a lot of hostility on the issue and the hearing should not reconvene until after advice was sought.
(This was only by midday or so; there are another three fantastic objections to tell you about.)
First from Father Sean O’Sullivan. He spoke fondly of Ringaskiddy, mentioning how John Ahern and his sidekicks have wrongly painted the town as a hub of heavy industry. He said the post office has been there since 1868; Ringaskiddy is on OSI maps from the 18th century; if you look at parish records you will see family names going back to that era. Ringaskiddy dates back to a time before the industrial revolution. John Ahern seems to attach little significance to that. It is home, in the deepest and fullest sense of the word, he said, to a loving and wonderful community. (I was tearing up at this point.)
Fr O’Sullivan spoke of the awful legacy left behind by Irish Steel; more than a generation has had to live with the contamination and the health effects. In 2008, the asbestos that had been dumped was finally removed after 30 years, by specialist contractors wearing heavy duty protective clothing. The people have paid a heavy price, he said, and the state now has to take responsibility.
Indaver is not a public utility, he reminded us. They are there to make profit, to please the shareholders.
He expressed that it was a privilege to serve the community. The audience stood to clap at length.
Natasha Harty from Cork East also spoke about the health impacts. She told us of a doctor from Holland who opposed the incinerator at a previous hearing, how he said that where he found dioxins, he found cancers. She said Indaver are licensed to pollute, licensed to produce dioxins.
She told us of survivors of the Bhopal Disaster speaking of the horrors they experienced. Those who died couldn’t see for the smoke from the fire, they had no idea which direction to run. Thousands of people lost their lives, and many more were left permanently disabled. If you wanted to recreate the Bhopal incident, Natasha said, put an incinerator in Ringaskiddy. In light of an accident, how could the people on Haulbowline Island escape?
She described the explosion at the Hicksons factory in 1993, when a plume of toxic gasses and fumes passed over Cobh and went further into East Cork. It passed by a school and the children complained of the smell. She went on to speak firmly of how we need to protect the Earth from global warming, from greenhouse gas emissions. How she has a dream of clean air, clean water, clean food, of Earth’s resourses being looked after. There is no place for incineration, she concluded to applause.
I’m beginning to very much value the importance of wisdom the elder generations have to offer us.
Aisling O’Callaghan was last to speak. She compared Ireland to New Zealand; our populations are similar, they have a similar pride in heritage and cultural history. But they have no MSW or toxic waste incineration – there are strong moves to get waste down to 10%. While Ireland has increased emissions by 5.3%.
She said there are 10x as many jobs in the recycling industry as there are in the incineration sector.
“Dioxins are the most toxic substances known to man … PVC plastic is the worst … Waste is not renewable energy.”
I found the following very hard to listen to. Aisling described the different schools she had taught in around the country, and how many parents or staff died of cancers per year. Now I can’t remember every location she listed – I remember Galway, none, Cavan, none – but in Cobh, she told us that every year without fail, at least one – often more than one – parent or teacher died.
I don’t want to end on a sad note, but I was shocked, appalled – broken hearted – to hear that.