They’ve changed the lighting in the hall from pink to turquoise, and the chairs around the tables have been switched. The Inspector has a new assistant. But Rory Mulcahy, senior counsel for Indaver, still looks permanently amused, and Paul Murphy, Cork County Council, still looks like he’s resigned himself to this hearing. We still have our dedicated audience, the lovely retirees, and we still have the quiet man with his new haircut watching over the chaos.
Simone O’Flynn, from Carrigaline CHASE, spoke first. Her objection, which was short and to the point, centred on concerns for tourism, bearing in mind that Cork is the second most visited city for tourists. She said she understands the tourist perspective, looking in on Cork and Ireland as a beautiful and unique place.
She spoke of the last time she sat in a room like this and objected – back then incineration was a quick fix to the problem of landfill. The onus was then put on the people to find a better way forward – and they responded by pushing recycling in Cork to 60%.
Simone outlined the vision the speakers speak of – a clean, peaceful home for us and our children to breathe God given air. The vision is one of innovation, clean industry, tourism and education. We’ve been walking towards this vision through cleaning up the Harbour, expanding our clean industry, our education and tourism prospectives and bringing down our carbon footprint.
We reject any proposal which is not in line with this vision, Simone finished.
We then heard from Hendrick Verway, a self-employed horticulturalist from Cobh Tourism. He spoke a bit about Cobh, highlighting that its position in worldwide tourism competition is in the top 10%, before going on to criticise points in expert witness statement Dave Coakley on land use planning policy.
He spoke on all that Cobh and the Harbour have to offer in authentic experiences – the shadow of the Cathedral, visiting the Titanic Trail, the convict grave on Spike Island – and stated that the Harbour’s brand would be damaged. Tourism would be damaged, he added, and investment in tourism would decline.
Later he brought out Mr Coakley’s saying that the area is zoned as industrial, saying that even though it is zoned as such, ultimately it is not [industrial]. The area is a natural harbour, with fields surrounding it, and schools and a university campus, and our only naval base, he said. “The building isn’t pretty. It should be in a hole, not in the Harbour.”
Hendrick went on to say that the jobs created could easily be created elsewhere, and it is laughable to say this development will improve Ringaskiddy. He brought attention to Indaver saying they’re going to build a walkway, calling it a joke. He stated that a port needs to be in a harbour, but an incinerator does not – questioning if the proximity to the port was a reason in choosing this site.
Hendrick then went on to discuss John Kelly’s witness statement on landscape and visual assessment. He brought up how Mr Kelly had worked on the EIS for the “ugliest development in the Harbour”, the Whitegate Bord Gáis energy facility at Roche’s Point. There too, we heard, John Kelly had said there would be little visual impact, before we were shown an image looking at Roche’s Point of what the plant really looks like (I think most of you know, yourselves).
Hendrick reminded us of the 96 trucks we would see going in and out of Ringaskiddy every day. In terms of levels of particulates and emissions, he told us, the proposal we have in front of us is basically a 5km stretch of British motorway with vehicles going round and round in a circle. (That comes from a British government report, which is pro-incineration.)
How the earliest civilisations dealt with waste was to burn it or bury it; “incineration is not new technology … There is nothing strategic about this proposal, it’s all for the benefit of developers.”
He finished by giving us a definition of “cluster”, and stating that there is nothing clustered about the industry in the Harbour, calling for a proper development plan to be put in place.
Next submission came from Tom Dwire, from the Monkstown Bay Sailing Club. He’s been training young sailors for many years, he said as we saw a picture of one of their fleets on the screen, going on to state that this is one of the most popular sailing destinations in the country, and that it’s at risk of being destroyed.
We saw a photo of a boat partaking in a Clipper Round the World race – which my uncle has participated in – as Tom told us that Clipper would find it abhorrent if this proposal went through.
We heard about Sydney Harbour, where they have their industry on the west side and their leisure and sports hub on the east. The importance of that is you cannot see the industry from the east side, but this incinerator would be visible from all around the Harbour. Tom asked, “Are we mad?”
On safety risks, Tom said there would be a huge number of people at risk from an incident – the Harbour is used for training for the NMCI students and children frequently sail in it; but the Indaver staff would be the most at risk
Lorna Hydey, also from Monkstown Bay Sailing Club, spoke too on the negative impacts this proposal will have on the sailing community in the area. She was part of the team who set up the Optimist Fleet which is now the biggest fleet in the club, before saying simply, “I’m quite frankly worried.”
She spoke fondly of the Harbour as it was during her childhood, calling it a “Harbour playground”. She then asked, why can’t we capitalise on our Harbour, like Sydney did?
Lorna finished by calling out the contradiction between the government setting up the Green Schools committee, and a government body, An Bord Pleanála, even considering this proposal.
The next submission to the hearing was amazing – from Mark Elmes, retired business proprietor and former president of the Rotary Club of Cork, living in Monkstown. He began by posing the following criteria to the application: is it the truth? is it fair to all concerned? will it bring good will and friendship? will it be beneficial? The answer across the board is no.
He pointed out how in different documentation Indaver can’t decide what to call their proposed incinerator – in correspondence with ABP it’s a “waste-to-energy facility”, and in the application it’s a “recourse recovery facility”.
Later Mark went on to tell us of a friend who fought a terrible battle against Merck, Sharp and Dohme – the multinational pharmaceutical company. Mark’s friend, John Hanrahan, had a family farm near the Merck factory, and because of the proximity to the factory John’s cattle began to fall ill and die. In 1988 the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Hanrahan family, finding Merck liable on three counts, including damage to human health and livestock health – the latter for which the “probable cause” was Merck’s on-site incinerator.
Mark went on to tell us about the collaboration between commercial companies and the State. Merck claimed the livestock were falling sick because of farm mismanagement, and the State agencies were supporting them. Even though the Hanrahans should have been compensated for the fall in milk prices, this didn’t happen. FoI requests show that the Department of Agriculture knew about the presence of dioxins in milk from the farm, but to admit this means the State would be liable for the damage done by Merck.
(The case is called Hanrahan v Merck, Sharpe and Dohme, number 316 of 1988.)
Mark brought our attention briefly to the absence of the EPA from this hearing, and asked why this was.
Just before finishing Mark addressed some of Indaver’s team, calling out on the arrogance and contempt of them. He noted how John Ahern walked out for part of Marcia D’Alton’s presentation, without the courtesey to ask the Inspector to pause proceedings until he had returned. Mark went on to say that Rory Mulcahy often seems more interested in his computer than what is being said, and even when asked to speak clearly into the microphone he does not.
Mark finished by stating in no unclear terms that the people of Ringaskiddy have had enough; the people of Cork will not stand for this incinerator, and the 35,000 objectors will not stand for it.
After a break we heard from Rodney Daunt, control engineer and head of Daunt Instrumentation Ltd. His company used to be responsible for monitoring the stack from the on-site incinerator at Novartis, Ringaskiddy.
The essence of what he was saying was: if you are not monitoring something, you can’t control it. Monitoring of some pollutants is carried out over a long time period (hours) and the lab measurement is not done until up to 2 weeks later. So any information gained is historic and tells us nothing about real-time performance; so no action can be taken to correct anything that is found to have gone wrong days before.
Also important pollutants like PCBs don’t seem to be getting monitored at all.
Rodney also showed slides of weather conditions – “inversions” which cause stack emissions to go down towards the ground, instead of up into the atmosphere (he showed a photo of exactly that happening at a stack in Cork Harbour) – these are very common in the Cork Harbour area.
Also he showed an amazing series of photos taken from Fontainstown overlooking the harbour, of a plume from a stack rising into still air, spreading horizontally, being blown towards Fountainstown by the light breeze that began, then – when a very local shower of rain came along – the plume being washed down onto the ground by the rain, right where Rodney was. He showed the “after” slide where the rain had cleared the cloud of stack emissions to leave clear sky. Very striking.
Next we had Professor Jeremy Glennon from UCC, expert in dioxins, speaking on bio-accumulation. Dioxins accumulate in fatty tissue, he said, and they accumulate in the grass that a cow eats, and then in the bull’s meat or in the cow’s milk, which we eat or drink, and the dioxins are passed on to us. They then accumulate in fatty tissues, and are passed on to the next generation during the developmental stages and through breastfeeding – and they take years to break down.
Jeremy asked: who’s going to take responsibility for this?
He told us to beware of the bio-cumulative effects of dioxins before taking this application into consideration.
Dara Fitzpatrick, lecturer in analytical chemistry at UCC, spoke next. He criticised inadequate monitoring of toxic emissions from the stack. He emphasised that if people are to have any confidence in the safety of the incinerator, emissions have to be kept very low and have to be monitored all the time.
He referred to a paper cited by Indaver expert Edward Porter which sought to “prove” low emissions, but which actually describes extremely high levels of toxic heavy metals (chromium 40,000 to 400,000 times normal background; cadmium 22,000 to 450,000 times background, and so on) from incinerators. Given the recent expensive programme to clean up Cork Harbour from toxic waste, he asked, is it really wise to follow this up by adding large amounts of toxic heavy metals?
He criticised the reliance on modelling instead of real data, the lack of regular monitoring, and “light touch” regulation – which he likened to the “light touch” regulation of the financial services industry that caused the disastrous crash of 2008-2009.
Allan Navratil asked a question regarding ash – where will it go? Paul Connolly, professor of chemistry, has shown that men are unable to get rid of dioxins while women pass them on to the baby, with serious implications for the next generation. The Inspector said he would not take questions at the moment.
Mamie Bowen then raised a procedural question – why is the EPA not present at the hearing? She pointed out that the EPA website was not working for the last two weekends, which is unfair given that we are at the hearing all week and have only the weekend for research (a point I absolutely agree with; we have had the same problem).
When the break for lunch was announced myself and Eithne, from the Greens, rushed off to follow Indaver to see where they go during their lunch break. They go past reception and disappear into the corridor leading upstairs – I believe there’s a handful of smaller meeting rooms on the higher floors.
Lunch was gourmet sandwiches with my parents and Eithne. Mamie offered to buy me lunch but no need today – maybe another day!
The afternoon began with Professor of General Practice Colin Bradley, who is also a GP in Cobh, and he spoke briefly on behalf of other Cobh GPs. He said that the town can be described as “post-industrial” and people still suffer from the legacy of this industry, including things like respiratory diseases and hearing impairments, and the cancer rates being a lot higher.
But he said there is a sense that Cobh is emerging from this past, with new developments springing up in the harbour, including the NMCI and the expansion of the naval base. However, the struggle to stop the incinerator is already having a negative effect on people’s mental health, with his patients telling him they’re frustrated that it keeps coming back after having been rejected.
“The enormous structure proposed,” Colin said, “would be a constant reminder that chemicals are being added to our atmosphere,” and he continued that these chemicals have an unknown effect on our health but are certainly not beneficial.
He finished by saying that he and his colleagues would have no difficulty in sharing with their patients the view that this incinerator would have a “deleterious effect on their health and wellbeing.”
Next was Derry Chambers from Cork Environmental Alliance. Derry spoke about the unsuitability of the site and showed photos of deep flooding. He voiced a suspicion that many at the hearing have alluded to, that Indaver’s plan is to import waste and this is why they chose the Ringaskiddy site. He pointed out that we in the campaign have hundreds of years of experience of planning matters between us. He called for the State to exercise a duty of care as regards public health. He described the Hickson’s fire, when only 250,000 gallons of capacity was available to catch water used to put it out, but 1.5 million gallons was used; so 1.25 million gallons of contaminated water went into Lough Beg and thence into Cork Harbour. This was in a 6-hour fire, but we have been told that a bunker fire in the incinerator could burn for 6 days.
He said that Indaver can relocate if they want to; but the Navy can’t relocate, the airport and port, MAREI and Beaufort institutes can’t relocate. These things are more important than a private incinerator.
We then heard from Úna Chambers, head of the Carrigaline branch of CHASE. Her objection flowed nicely from one subject to the next – she began by saying how privileged she was to hear the objections from the Ringaskiddy residents on Tuesday last, calling it the best presentation at this hearing so far.
“Ireland doesn’t need another incinerator,” she added. Ireland, especially Munster, needs clean air. She brought out how Indaver need a license to burn waste – I think implying that needing licensing means it’s dangerous – and that it needs waste to be generated, and it needs a waste transfer station, “not a foundation block without a reason,” – referring to how their proposal only includes the platform for a WTS.
Úna said we will need more hospital beds if this falls through, we will need more salt mines to fill in, and if you put heavy metals in, water vapour on its own does not come out. She finished by asking what insurance company would ever insure Indaver on this site.
Jonathan Fleury followed; he’s an ex Commondore of the Monkstown Bay Sailing Club and photographer; before retirement he ran a construction company.
Jonathan described four photographs he’d taken from his house across the bay, overlooking the site; the pictures, printed on A3, all look south-east. In the first we see the Beaufort Institute, the NMCI campus, and Hammond Lane to the left, and to the right we have the wind turbine. In the middle is the proposed site for the incinerator.
In the second picture the turbine is to the far left, and the Martello Tower is prominently in the middle of the skyline. In the third picture, the pylons and their electricity lines cut across the middle, with the turbine taking up a quarter of the picture to the right.
(The pictures are on display at the table in the hall – where you can also view other documentation from Indaver.)
In the fourth picture, on A4 and taken from the same angle, we see what Jonathan described as a classic case of inversion. There’s smoke emitting from the fire training unit at the NMCI, drifting towards Ringaskiddy.
Jonathan explained that he had some problems with the figures in the EIS. Firstly, in the pictures showing what the incinerator would look like in the landscape, the pictures are all taken with a very wide angle, making the incinerator so small it can hardly be seen.
Secondly, that they give pictures of the incinerator and the site in context looking west, south and east – but not north. If they had taken pictures looking north you would’ve seen the incinerator against the NMCI, the western end of Cobh, and the Haulbowline naval base. Were they too embarrassed to show them? Jonathan asked that if these pictures existed that they be made available immediately. I don’t remember and my notes don’t record if these pictures were ever provided.
Jonathan finished by telling us about accidents that he has witnessed in part of his line of work – training new engineers on-site. He said that no matter how many safety inductions are done, accidents can and will happen, be it mechanical failure, electrical failure, spontaneous combustion, or even a fire or explosion.
Following that we had our four speakers from the Cork Greens, beginning with Oliver Moran, secretary of the branch and Cork North-Central candidate.
Oliver planned to speak about the implications of Bottlehill being used to dump bottom ash, but he only got through the introduction before being interrupted by the Inspector. The Inspector said that Bottlehill was not mentioned specifically in the EIS; that it only mentioned a “licensed landfill” would be used. Oliver asserted that his objection related only to the implications for traffic, and for residents near the roads that would have to be used by HGVs.
Rory Mulcahy gravitated towards the sacred EIS, and referred us to chapter 220.127.116.11, dealing with bottom ash.
The discussion continued, with Joe Noonan reiterating what Oliver’s objection was about – and the Inspector eventually let Oliver talk.
He skipped the part of his objection looking at Bottlehill specifically, and on to talking about the R635. He said you can’t practically get from Ringaskiddy to Bottlehill without going through a residential area, as Cork has no north ring road. The R635 is often seen as our north ring road, but this is not the case.
Oliver described to us the R635; it passes through a residential area, at a gradient of 7%, with a total of 44 junctions – including ones for Garda stations, fire stations, and schools.
Oliver raised the concern of the Jack Lynch Tunnel being closed, and in that event the only other available route would be through the city. He went on to say that the people who would be effected by the trucks using the R635 had not been notified.
Oliver finished by saying how he only had the chance to speak because of being in the Green Party and speaking under our slot – other residents in the area had not had that chance.
Attached to his submission were pictures detailing the roads mentioned and the associated issues in using them for HGVs.
My dad, Gordon Reid, spoke next. Dad’s a semi-retired senior lecturer in physiology, former professor in the field in Bucharest.
Dad started by explaining that the political is personal – in this case we’re all affected by decisions made in places out of our reach. Ater a tour of our garden and what is now a waste site where our stream begins, dad showed plumes arriving at some schools including my old one, Carrigaline Educate Together, which the “experts” didn’t even notice was there, and Monsktown school, which gets very high levels of pollution. (Pictures done by PlumePlotter.)
Dad then showed evidence cited by the Indaver health assessment – this was an article that the Indaver “expert” claimed showed incineration was safe (only a “moderate” effect) but which actually showed thousands of years of life expected to be lost in EU countries owing to incinerators (modern ones, of the type Indaver claims are safe). Not only evidence of a health risk, but – here’s the crucial bit – that evidence is the bit Indaver’s “expert” chose not to reveal to us, instead quoting the word “moderate”, like it was nothing worse than a visit to the dentist…
Lastly Dad gave some personal messages to our Indaver opponents, asking them how they can be doing what they are doing, and have they forgotten “common sense, heart and conscience”? He mentioned how proud he’d be if I ended up doing work like Joe, our lawyer (I’m interested in maybe studying law) and stated a hope that the planning law would still allow the Inspector to make a decision that reflected what is right for the people of Ringaskiddy and the harbour.
Dad’s submission made some cry, and as I was handing copies out to those listening I had people eagerly walking over to me asking for one.
After another short break, myself and Eithne rounded up proceedings with two submissions. Eithne read the submission of Mark Cronin, from the Greens, which stated essentially that there will not be enough waste in the Southern Region to feed the incinerator.
The easy to recycle stuff consists of paper, glass, textiles, organics, so on – and the rest which is harder to recycle is a 1/4 of household waste and a 1/10 of commercial waste. So we have 100,000 tonnes of household waste and 40,000 tonnes of commercial – that doesn’t reach the incinerator capacity.
As we get better at recycling, there will be even less waste available. Mark wrote about a family with only 44kg of non-recycled waste per year. If everyone reached that standard and the same was done with commercial waste, we’d have only 50,000 tonnes a year total – only 1/4 of the incinerator capacity.
I read a submission on behalf of Dan Boyle, our former TD in Cork South-Central and former member of Seanad Éireann. It focused on the abuses of process and the duplicitous actions of state bodies, including the then director of the EPA voicing support for incineration before the Agency held oral hearing on this application.
Even though the consultants on Indaver’s side have lied in the past, it didn’t dull the enthusiasm of people within the Department of the Environment to promote incineration. Dan went on to write how it’s disheartening that some state agencies have not attended the hearing. He did give credit to the Defence Forces however, saying their objection “is deserving of the most serious consideration.”
Dan finished by writing that the most serious abuse of process has been by Indaver – they have moved goal posts in their own favour, even when they know of the outright opposition to them from the community.