Our fourteenth day – Wednesday 11th – began with a response from the Department of Defence to Indaver’s response to their objection. Their objection centred on how they’d need a no-fly zone around the stack; Indaver sought to disprove the experts by producing no fewer than three documents explaining why a no-fly zone wasn’t needed.
Today, the Department responded to those documents. I was hoping they’d be as hard-hitting today in their reply as they were in their objection, bearing in mind their change of Minister, and they didn’t disappoint.
Their reply started with an explanation of how the helicopter used by the Air Corps (6.8t Air Corps AW139) lands and takes off. They then discussed individually the reports produced by Indaver in response to their objection.
On the ARUP report, the Department acknowledged that ARUP were right in saying there are a number of other obstacles in the general area of Haulbowline, but said none of them affect approaches or departures from the island. They also said that the plume may not be visible at all times.
In this section they went on to discuss the requirement to avoid obstacles by 500ft as laid down by the IAA Rules of the Air Order (SI 72/2004). Although an effort by ARUP was put into identifying obstacles around Haulbowline to say they all must be avoided, the statement says there are two flaws with the assessment: the rule does not apply to military aircraft, and, in accordance with paragraph 3(a) of the Order, the rule doesn’t apply when landing to taking off either. They also state that although they’re not bound to comply with the rule, it is considered international best practise.
Finally they reaffirm their statement in their submission that an avoidance zone of 1,000ft is necessary, when you take together the stack height, 245ft, the plume risk height, at 330ft, and the obstacle clearance of 500ft.
The next topic in the Department’s reply was access. They began by stating clearly that if there was an accident at the facility, the only way to get off Haulbowline would be towards the hazard. In the following paragraph they say it’s of “paramount importance” that the Naval Base is fully operational 24/7. They give the example of the NS Diving Team who look for missing people – they need to always have access to the road to go out on a search.
On the WFAC report from Indaver, the Department said it makes continuous references to the 500ft avoidance rule, and even mentions legal o disciplinary action for breaking the rule. They say this is surprising when you consider the military experience of the authors. The Department also criticise the report’s quoting the IAA and the Cork airport authorities as these only apply to civil aviation.
Quoting a paper from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department’s response also says that Haulbowline Island is used by the Air Corps as an airport, and according to the paper the proposed stack would create a hazard to aircraft.
They also comment briefly on the AWN report by Dr Edward Porter – Indaver’s air quality expert – before concluding that their position on the proposed facility hasn’t changed. They say Haulbowline Island is the Naval Services’ only base in the country, adding that “it is not possible to choose another base”. In their closing sentence they state that restrictions on the ability of the Air Corps to operate wold carry strategic implications for the State.
Mark Keane from PDFORRA then spoke briefly – he said PDFORRA represents over 800 members working on Haulbowline Island, and added that the Indaver representatives have made an incorrect claim by saying in the HAZID report there won’t be a scenario where Haulbowline Island will need to be evacuated. He concluded that the association is still concerned as to the evacuation of the island.
In the first draft of this report, I wrote: “We had a break for twenty minutes, after which we had a reply – to the response from the Department of Defence to the response from Indaver to the objection from the Department of Defence – from Indaver.”
Anyway, we had a reply from Indaver. Rory Mulcahy, senior counsel for the company, criticised heavily the Department’s saying they would need a 500ft no-fly zone above the stack when they also said the rule of not flying less that 500ft from the ground does not apply to military aircraft.
He asked if the term “avoid area”, used at the end of paragraph five on the ARUP report in the Department’s response, is a technical term. He also asked why the Department object to this particular stack when they don’t object to other stacks in the vicinity, and Commdnt Browne replied that the stack is simply too close to Haulbowline Island, and that’s why the others don’t matter. He added that wind turbines and pylons etcetera are all visible, but a plume isn’t always obvious.
Rory Mulcahy then made the offer that Indaver could temporarily shut down the incinerator to accommodate essential operations on Haulbowline, and the audience laughed out loud. My dad Gordon Reid said to me later that 60% of total dioxin emissions are released during the start-up and shut-down process – the other 40% are released during normal operations.
The new emergency access road to Haulbowline from the L2545 as proposed by Indaver was mentioned – the road that goes through the NMCI campus. Paul Nash, NMCI, said that that road has three gates that are locked every night, and it’s a one-way road with speed ramps.
Rory Mulcahy phoned one of the authors of the WFAC report for Indaver so we could get comment from him – we heard him over the phone through the speakers. Ex-helicopter pilot Michael Grew discussed with the author, Shane Savage.
Michael said that craft inspecting gas pipelines or police helicopters for example need to be allowed close to the ground, considering the height of the stack, but for a gas plume it’s different.
Mr Savage asked if Michael was implying that when the 500ft rule is applied to gas plumes, if an aircraft flew within that distance it wouldn’t be safe. Michael replied that using the rule would give a false impression as the rule doesn’t apply to military aircraft.
Commdnt. Browne clarified the rules by saying again that the 500ft rule doesn’t apply during landing or takeoff. He added that the 500ft separation is increased to 1,000ft in built up areas.
Joe Noonan, solicitor for CHASE, asked Mr Savage how many times he had visited Cork Harbour, and the reply was he hadn’t. Joe also asked how many hours Mr Savage had in his flight log – a couple of thousand was the reply, and he added that he hadn’t flown for a long time due to a perforated eardrum.
Joe asked if Mr Savage had flown both rotary and fixed wing aircraft (helicopters/planes respectively) and the answer was yes, adding that he is a trained helicopter pilot too. Lastly Joe asked if Mr Savage agreed that risk should be minimised when possible – and he did.
We had an early lunch at 12:15, and we returned to my dad Gordon Reid raising the issue of the climate correction factor mentioned yesterday. I’ll tell you first what happened: As promised I was given the paper with the number on it by Rory Mulcahy yesterday, which he then borrowed to read it into the record. I was expecting it back, and I didn’t receive it. I had already memorised the number, and was waiting for the paper back, so didn’t feel the need to write it down when I had the paper.
They spent a good half an hour arguing about this. My dad said clearly from the beginning that we had requested two figures: the “degree days” value that is used to get the climate correction factor (CCF) and the source of the meteorological data needed to calculate the degree days value. Dad argued that we’d only been given the CCF itself, and a piece of paper that was subsequently taken back.
Rory Mulcahy acknowledged the request, and said he’d read it into the record – the Inspector said that it was his understanding the figure had been read out and we’d been given a piece of paper too. Dad explained that we hadn’t received the piece of paper, concluding that we need both figures [and not just one]; the Inspector said that, arguably, enough information was given; Dad replied, “Not with the time available to us.”
Joe Noonan pointed out that Rory Mulcahy had read out the figure into the record, but he’d spoken very quickly and quietly. He also explained the events so far, finishihng by stating that we’re no longer in possession of the paper. The Inspector, addressing my dad, said we didn’t say so. Dad said we did. Rory Mulcahy interrupted to explain events from his point of view.
The issue of timing was brought up, with the Inspector saying it had been 23 hours since the request for information yesterday – why had Dad not raised it yesterday or this morning? “I wasn’t here yesterday,” Dad replied, “and this morning, with the Defence Forces here, I didn’t think it appropriate.”
The audience were calling for the information to be given back to us, with Rory Mulcahy saying twice he didn’t have the document. Chairwoman of CHASE Mary O’Leary spoke up for my dad, saying that in fairness, Dad didn’t want to interrupt the Defence Forces that morning. The matter was eventually resolved when Dad was allowed to explain concisely why the issue hadn’t been mentioned in the last 23 hours. We’d spent so much time arguing about this it was almost comical at the end.
Rory Mulcahy then read out the information again, with some additional material. We then moved on to questions from Joe to Dr Martin Hogan, the human health expert for Indaver.
Joe quoted the part of the objection from Colin Bradley, who spoke for GPs in the Cobh area on Tuesday 3rd, that discussed public mental health, and asked Dr Hogan what information he assessed on the matter; Dr Hogan replied he’d searched on PubMed and the only paper found was a study on incinerator workers in Japan which compared their mental health to the administrators of the plants. He said the workers generally had better mental health than the admins.
(PubMed is a free, public search engine, like Google but for medical literature.)
Joe said the GPs’ objection said there were negative mental health impacts on Cobh from the incinerator and asked Dr Hogan if he had spoken to anyone on the ground or done any research into it – Dr Hogan said he hadn’t. Later Joe asked if Dr Hogan had any qualifications in epidemiology, and the reply was that part of his medical training included epidemiology but it’s not his speciality.
There then followed a discussion on the definition of a health impact assessment (HIA), with Joe saying that according to the precise guidelines he hadn’t done a HIA, and with Dr Hogan accepting that but arguing that he had done an assessment of the health effects.
Joe referenced the part of the HIA where Dr Hogan says a complete HIA isn’t possible, and in reply Dr Hogan said he meant it isn’t practical.
Later Joe asked if it’s feasible to talk to local doctors to get a picture of the public mental health situation; Dr Hogan said it is feasible but there would be no benefit. The Inspector asked him to clarify.
Dr Hogan explained that every doctor would have different patients, and the patients would come relative to the doctor’s special interest. The Inspector said that during the objections there was a reoccurring theme of disease in the Harbour, and asked if it had emerged in Dr Hogan’s data that there is a high instance of health impacts or complaints. Dr Hogan said the area is well known to him as he works in Ringaskiddy two days a week, and quoted a statement on the Cobh cancer cluster from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, which can be found here: http://www.ncri.ie/news/article/cancer-rates-cobh-statement-national-cancer-registry
Joe went on to ask if he’d done HIAs for public bodies; Dr Hogan replied he’d done one for the National Roads Authority, now TII, in developing the M28, for the Dublin Airport Authority for their new runway, and for Luas in one of their new tram lines. Joe asked if he agreed that when assessing impacts it is important to minimise risk, and he did, and Joe stated, So you put the development far away from people. Dr Hogan replied that that’s a consideration, but not the only one.
My dad’s questioning to Dr Hogan began with public mental health, which was covered by clinical psychologist Jennifer Hayse. She began by asking him on his qualifications – he replied that he has a medical degree from UCC and trained as a GP, but does mainly occupational mental health work. He estimated about a 60% workload that involves mental health.
Jennifer quoted the 56 words in the EIS that discuss public mental health and picked out the word “subjective” to ask why Dr Hogan described it as such. He replied that you can’t assess public mental health with a questionnaire like you can individually.
Jennifer went on to reiterate that impacts on public mental health from industry are all down to threat – mirroring what she’d said in her submission. She said there is loads of evidence of this sense of threat from what people have said at the hearing. Dr Hogan accepted that there can be a sense of threat prior to a development nearby, but stated that he did a PubMed search and found no evidence.
Jennifer replied, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” She said that a baseline health study into the public mental health in the Harbour area in relation to the incinerator is warranted. Dr Hogan asked, How could a developer do it? What he said next really shocked us – that if the incinerator gets built, the people will get used to it.
Mark Elmes stood to the table to say that Dr Hogan does not speak for him. He said that Dr Hogan needs to go out into the field and talk to people, and he’ll find the huge amount of stress, fear, and anxiety that is felt.
Nick Upton, Cork Environmental Alliance, stated that communities can be split on matters like this, but Ringaskiddy definitely isn’t. He said that there isn’t anyone in Ringaskiddy who wants this incinerator built, and that there are books and books of evidence on the negative effects such proposals have on communities. Dr Hogan replied that Ringaskiddy has a sophisticated population and he didn’t want to comment individually.
He went on to say that if the Board gives permission to this incinerator, and if it gets built, he doesn’t believe it will have a physical or psychological effect on the community. There was outrage from the audience.
Mamie Bowen asked if during the preparation for the health impact assessment Dr Hogan had approached the Asthma Society, and he answered no. We had a break at half three – I dashed off for a cappuccino – and returned for the rest of my dad’s questioning to Dr Hogan.
On the article which speaks on the YoLL figure for populations living near incinerators, mentioned in my dad’s statement on Tuesday 3rd, Dad asked Dr Hogan why he didn’t cite it. Dr Hogan replied that there was an assumption that there would be mortality right from the lowest levels of emissions. Dad replied it wasn’t an assumption – the WHO had huge amount of evidence to show that was the case.
Dad then asked Dr Hogan what basis he had for dismissing an Indian article on the health effects of incinerators. Dr Hogan said it wasn’t because the authors were Indian, saying that they produce some of the best articles, but because the incinerators discussed were, and therefore not regulated under the EU directive. Dad asked him twice, Are you sure on that, Dr Hogan? The Inspector asked my dad, Are you sure?
Dr Hogan wasn’t sure, so dad put up a slide showing where the incinerators actually were – they were in Western Europe and the Americans mainly, and none were in India. Dad then asked if Dr Hogan had read the article, and he replied that he did and believed it was out of step with the others.
Dad showed us reference 5 in the “HIA”, which has a message that says you need to purchase this article and gives you a link – you only get that message when you don’t have access to the article. Dad asked why the message was there, and Dr Hogan said it was for anyone who wanted to read the article to be able to find it.
The following question was on why Dr Hogan cited a Health Protection Authority (England) report, based on another report discussing “modern, well-run” incinerators (operating under the directive introduced only four years before the report was written) as that isn’t enough time for evidence to accumulate. The earlier report had been heavily criticised by the Royal Society. Dr Hogan said the HPA is an independent government body, with no vested interest, and that’s why he cited it.
Dad then asked why he didn’t cite a Health Protection Scotland report which was a lot more thorough and balanced, taking a much more cautious approach than the English report did. The Scottish report also incorporated the precautionary principle, which forms part of Scottish law. Dr Hogan said the report didn’t come up in his PubMed search.
Dad brought up reference seven in the HIA – the part Dr Hogan quoted said reassuring things about incineration, and the part omitted said that “powerful political and economic interests” are giving “false reassurances”.
The next question was about Dr Hogan trying to discredit the BSEM report on health hazards of incineration using something which he was misquoting from a document by the HPA; he said it was a typo. The last question put by my dad was on the list of schools near the proposed site – Carrigaline Educate Together is not listed, and as stated by my dad during the submission, the school overlooks the site. Neither Dr Hogan nor Dr Porter would take responsibility.
Peter Daly asked Dr Hogan about his original report for an earlier application where he dealt with particles over 10 micrometres only. Dr Hogan said that particle size was an evolving issue. Peter then asked whether Dr Hogan was aware of the downward trend in particle size and the importance of particle number in the smaller size range. Dr Hogan answered that he was aware of that, and that the experience of the Carranstown incinerator was reassuring (“reassuring” is a word that is used a lot); but he did say that weight, not number, is measured (PM10, PM2.5 and so on).
Peter asked whether Dr Hogan thought that emissions could be modelled with certainty, and Dr Hogan replied they could be measured “almost” with certainty. Dr Porter interjected that the AERMOD model is approved by the Irish and US EPA. It works well in terms of sensitivity to parameters, but doesn’t predict exact location of a certain concentration very well. It predicts well in either time or space but not both. Peter Daly re-stated that this meant the modelling can’t be done with certainty.
Joe then asked the basis for Dr Hogan’s confidence that Indaver will keep to its emissions limits. What was Indaver’s worst failure to keep to its limits? Martin Hogan responded that Joe was referring to the Antwerp fire (see below – he meant Antwerp, but not the fire). He said the limits are policed by the EPA: yes, he did have confidence in Indaver, but actually we only need to have confidence in the EPA (that caused the inevitable wave of sceptical amusement to go round the room).
Then Joe explained that actually, he meant the incident in 2002 in Belgium, where the Indaver incinerator had exceeded its dioxin emissions limits by 1,835 times. This had gone on to the extent that dioxins were being found at above permitted levels in chicken eggs. (If I’m not mistaken, that incident led to the shutdown of the plant for several months.) Martin Hogan gave an answer so vague that I couldn’t write it down, so I can’t tell you what he said at this point; Joe clarified that he was asking for the evidence base for Dr Hogan’s confidence in Indaver.
That was the end of Joe’s questions, and just to close the session, my dad returned to the topic of nanoparticles with a question for Dr Porter: were nanoparticle emissions (1-100 nanometres) being monitored at Carranstown? Dr Porter gave a more direct answer than we’ve become used to from Indaver experts, and said that currently particles of that size can only be measured in research situations, and there is no commercial system that allows them to be monitored. My dad thanked him for confirming that nanoparticles are not being monitored at Carranstown, and said “no further questions”.
Monday will begin at 3pm, with questioning on coastal erosion, ecology, and cultural heritage – 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 partaking in that. 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. I do thank you for your infinite patience in me uploading these – this one was a marathon 4,000 words long!