(This is quite long I’m afraid. Comments always welcome.)
Our seventh day at the hearing began with Professor Anthony Staines, or as Joe Noonan introduced him with the German terminology, Prof. Dr. Dr. Anthony Staines. He’s an epidemiologist and specialist in public health.
Anthony began by stating how the health impact assessment provided by Dr Martin Hogan and his team was not in fact a proper assessment, as we didn’t know who compiled it or what their qualifications were, and it didn’t even meet the criteria for an HIA. Also at the beginning of the HIA it essentially tells us, “We don’t actually have to write an HIA as there’s no law saying so, and no regulatory body in Ireland to assess it,” – to which Anthony asked what legal background they had to make such a claim.
He went on to criticise the literature review, stating that it was not carried out to an acceptable standard. While reading out his submission at the hearing, he commented that a proper systematic review of the literature had been done for otters, so why couldn’t the same be done for humans?
He outlined for us exactly what an HIA is and what it’s for, commenting that any serious company would carry it out properly. Anthony finished by stating that the people of Cork deserved better than this.
I would go in to more detail but there is a lot of ground to cover for today, one reason it’s taken two days to post. Anthony’s report is in CHASE’s submission however if you wish to read it in full (I definitely recommend).
Bernie Connolly from Cork Environmental Forum then spoke on the importance of introducing a zero waste strategy, and told us how well this worked out for our sister city, San Francisco. She said that under projects run by CEF, they have redirected 10,000 mattresses from landfill for recovery.
She said that incineration should be a last resort only, and added that resource recovery and a circular economy is the only way forward.
Allan Navratil from East Cork for a Safer Environment gave a great submission looking at every expert witness statement in turn and commenting on them. But he began by stating that misuse of resources equals waste, and incineration is contrary to the three R’s – Reduse, Reuse, Recycle.
1/3 of all food produced worldwide is wasted, Allan said, and higher bin charges would result in an increase in flytipping.
(May I please have suggestions for a better word than ‘said’?)
Allan asked us to note that his group in East Cork completely supports and endorses Joe’s submission on April 19th, before beginning with his criticisms of the witness statements. He questioned David Coakley’s saying that Ringaskiddy was more favourable than anywhere else as a site, when the incinerator would be right next to a residential area, to new technology [IMERC, Beaufort], and right in the middle of a tourist gateway. That makes this decision mad, Allan told us; but Indaver have a dogged obsession with Ringaskiddy. He suggested it was because of the proximity to the port.
He also criticised Martin Hogan’s report on human health impacts, specifically when Dr Hogan said that impacts on our health will be “negligible”. Allan said that there still will be an impact, so what is negligible (neglect-able) and to whom?
We had a tea break at 11:20, during which me and my dad were asked to take some photos with the Examiner! There were two articles in Thursday’s paper, but I don’t think the photos were used.
At 11:40 we returned to the hearing, to Indaver responding to criticism of Dr Hogan’s report from Anthony Staines. Rory Mulcahy, senior counsel for the company, questioned Anthony on his qualifications, and Anthony responded by calmly reciting a list of them. Mulcahy also dismissed any concern Anthony had on flooding as “just a passing comment” because he isn’t qualified on paper to express an opinion on it – and Anthony shrugged it off, unconcerned.
Anthony later said of the literature review that it doesn’t properly reference the EIS, and Dr Hogan replied that when there was a reference it was to the EIS as a whole. My dad, Gordon Reid, pointed out that there was an issue of equity here – we have very little time to object and can’t read through the whole EIS to figure out which part Dr Hogan might be referring to.
Next to give a submission was Bob McLaughlin, a retired managing director. He began by speaking of the negative changes Cork Harbour has seen, and how a government has finally decided to clean it up. He said his heart goes out to the people of Ringaskiddy and Monkstown, and he commented the last two Inspectors were considerate and mindful in their manner. Which led him on to his next topic – to criticise the process that takes place after the hearing.
Bob told us that the Inspector will sit through the hearing and prepare a report, which is passed on to a member of the Board, and the member then presents it to the Board who make the decision: to go with the Inspector or to overrule them.
The Inspector is the one who has actually sat here and listened to the people – so it’s like having a court without a judge, Bob stated. He also read out ABP’s mission statement in an ironic fashion, to chuckles from the audience.
We saw some photos on the screen of Indaver’s facilities around Europe – not one of them was next to a college, a navy headquarters, or a village, to use Bob’s words.
A gentleman called Mark Elmes stood to the microphone to ask the Inspector, in reference to the previous submission, how he sees ABP working from his perspective. The Inspector confirmed what Bob McLaughlin said, that he takes submissions, gathers information, and makes his recommendation – ultimately the Board makes the decision, not me, he finished.
Charles Hayes, a geographer, retired teacher, and college tutor – currently working on a book on the history of East Cork – began by referencing us to page eight of Julie Ascoop’s expert witness statement. The page shows a map of the site, focusing on the part that meets the cliff, and outlines the site boundary, the high water mark, and the top/bottom of the cliff.
He described taking measurements stated by Ms Ascoop and checking them against measurements he made, and finding his own estimates to be twice as big. He said he had difficulty in finding a scale on the map, but did find 1:500 written in the corner. Was the map shrunk to fit the paper it was printed on? he asked, adding that the alternative is unthinkable.
(These are my own observations now as I look at the map – in the key it says “scale at A1 – 1:500”, but this is an A3 sheet. And in the opposite corner it says in minuscule writing, “Do not scale.” – I don’t know if that’s relevant.)
John Twomey from the Shamrock Hurling and Football Club referenced an Irish Examiner article in which John Ahern claimed that €300,000 from Indaver would be given back to the community. John’s club said recently they were fundraising to raise the same amount of money, and he was getting trouble from some people who said it wasn’t a coincidence. John wanted to clarify that it was.
I was treated to lunch by Dominick, one of our Cork Greens members, and at 2pm we returned to witness – how to describe it – a verbal tussle over the request of an Annual Environmental Report (AER).
It lasted half an hour. Earlier in the day we had been handed another theoretical formula seeking to prove the Ringaskiddy incinerator would meet the R1 threshold, and were spared a walkthrough of the figures. My dad saw it had the theoretical waste inputs on the front page, and requested that we be given this information for Carranstown with the real figures. Dad had been told the papers could be found in the expert witness statement from Conor Jones, manager of the Meath facility, but when dad looked it couldn’t be found. The request was simple, but apparently no one knew plain English.
Dad realised soon enough we could do the calculation ourselves if we had the AER – so dad decided it was easier to ask for that. Mulcahy said they were available on the EPA website, and dad replied they were not.
The argument continued, with Joe reiterating the request and being offered an audit for 2013-14. Joe insisted that was not what was being asked for. Dad later requested that everything that should be in public hands be made available, stating that we are competent in engineering but we don’t know which document has which bit of information because we’re not waste management specialists. John Ahern then left the room with his phone to get the documents.
It was suggested by Mulcahy that the reason the document couldn’t be found online was that the licence number had changed. So Marcia D’Alton searched with the new number, and still couldn’t find them. The Inspector was getting fed up; he said that he could be told about the search tomorrow, and ended the discussion. Ahern returned to his seat, and within seconds the documents were online.
Joan Hayse then spoke her submission, and she began by saying that if the proposal went through, the incinerator would be a permanent memorial to the years the community spent fighting. She asked us to think of families going to the crematorium to say goodbye to a loved one, and having to pass the incinerator instead of having a peaceful spot in their grief. She spoke on credibility, alluding to how Indaver extended the high court case following their rejected application, costing the community as much as they could, and then withdrew at the eleventh hour. Joan asked that if they can’t double check their own paperwork and get their own name right, then how can we trust them to run an incinerator?
She said that Cork Harbour has moved on to being a place of excellence, and that Indaver needs to now walk away, and stop being the ugly step sister who tried to force her foot into the glass slipper.
Marcia spoke up to say that the AER requested earlier had now miraculously appeared on the EPA website.
John Masson, a veterinary surgeon, began by calling attention to Indaver’s cherry-picking of statistics, in relation to volumes of traffic currently on the roads. He said they chose figures for the Shannon Park roundabout, which we all know is huge, instead of the tiny ones in Ringaskiddy and Shanbally, where traffic has had to be stopped to allow a truck to pass.
He criticised the modelling used for dioxin risk assessment, MARI (Most at Risk Individual). MARI is a theoretical subsistence farmer, we heard, who lives off a 100m diameter plot of land – I don’t recall if he added that MARI has one cow living in this plot, and grows all their food off the same field. Where there is a cow, I remind you, who is so polite as to not trample the vegetables.
John said that there are almost no subsistence farmers in the area, as all farmers will look to gain some form of income off their land. Land – he told us of a conversation with a real farmer, who has 170 acres of land, plus 70 acres leased, and when this farmer heard of MARI, the language he used was not to be repeated at an oral hearing. “The picture MARI gives us is unrealistic.”
He made brief reference to plagiarism from Dr Martin Hogan – and the Inspector interrupted him before he could continue as he didn’t like the direction this was heading.
We then heard Joan Masson, a member of CHASE since the very beginning. She said she lives in Currabinny, unless she’s died and gone to a hell where she’s serving a sentence of having to sit out three oral hearings.
She walked us through some photos she took while visiting the site during the storm season. Included were before and after images of the cliff after Storm Frank, and of the site flooding. Joan discussed the right of way path from the Martello Tower to the beach, and suggested that if Indaver put together a new path they would have control over access to it.
Speaking of the NMCI, she asked who would want to spend the best days of their life – their student days – next to a toxic waste incinerator. And what parent would want that for their children? Joan also said that if waste was imported from Northern Ireland it was just a stone’s throw to Scotland and England, implying that soon Indaver would begin importing from the rest of Europe too.
Joan concluded by stating that the site Indaver want to build on should be used for what the community want, like a garden or a park.
Rosie Cargin of Kinsale Environment Watch brought our attention to the fact that two old-age pensioners with walking sticks had gone to the effort of visiting the site to photograph it, so why had no one from ABP done so? The Inspector replied clearly that he had visited, twice, and would visit again.
We then heard evidence from Marcia D’Alton, which lasted about an hour. She began by telling us her background: she holds Degrees in Engineering and Engineering Science from UCC, and has worked as a consultant in many fields including management of non-hazardous waste, renewable energy development, and the licensing and permitting of waste handling facilities. She added that she has worked on projects in these areas for government departments here and abroad, and we also heard of the work she’s done as a councillor both on the Passage West Town Council and CCC.
Marcia’s submission began by looking into the correlations between Kingston Harbour in Ontario, Canada and Cork Harbour. Both were used to the advantage of British forces in the 18th and 19th centuries, who built Martello towers and forts to defend the two harbours, although more towers were built here. But there is another unfortunate difference, Marcia told us; in Canada, all the Kingston forts and associated landmarks are recognised collectively and are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The same has not been done here: although locations from around the harbour are recognised, how they are interlinked is not, and as a group they haven’t seen statutory protection.
Marcia then spoke in detail about Martello towers, specifically the one next to the proposed site, including in her evidence a reference to a study she’d done for the previous oral hearing into all of the Martello towers around the world. She said the Martello tower in Ringaskiddy is particularly special because it is one of four with a path attached, out of the 52 in Ireland. Some ordnance stones are also still clearly visible.
She also highlighted the importance of the location of the tower. It was built on a peninsula on high ground to overlook the harbour and protect against intruders. “It couldn’t do it from Ringaskiddy. It couldn’t do it from the proposed Indaver site,” Marcia said.
Later she told us of the new right of way path Indaver would put together. She showed us a drawing taken from the EIS of what you’d see walking the new path, but she said there would still be a pylon to one side, and the trees illustrated to the other had been strategically placed to hide the facility.
Marcia said that building over the path “truly constitutes heritage destruction.” She then quoted section 14.6.1 of the EIS, dealing with archaeological findings on the site, which says that if the path is discovered, it will be preserved in situ or preserved by record. She pointed out that you can’t preserve in situ something that has an incinerator on top of it.
Marcia raised the question several times, Why did no one assess visual impact of the incinerator from the water? Keeping in mind that €9.4m was brought in from cruise liners and their passengers in 2012.
Later she went on to praise the NMCI, the Beaufort Institute, and IMERC. She discussed the concerns had when the NMCI was still just a proposal, and how CCC’s Senior Executive Planner said that the 20m height of the building would be too large in the context of Ringaskiddy and there would be no hiding it from across the harbour. Marcia asked us to bear that in mind compared to a 50.7m incinerator, which the Planner now finds acceptable.
I would go in to more detail – Marcia went on to discuss the WHO’s exclusionary factors for such proposals in the site selection process, the R1 formula, and she went into a detailed talk on waste management policy documents in the region, in Ireland, and in Europe. But I’m writing this report for Wednesday and now it’s Friday. After the hearing I will need to read the evidence in detail to appreciate the work put into writing it – I hope I’ve given a fair representation here.
Following Marcia we heard a few brief words from Emma Neville. She said that after hearing the impact the incinerator would have on health, she was beginning to question how safe it was to remain in the area if it was built. Already, on the road near her house, several people had cancer including herself. She said she would probably move away if the incinerator was built.
There then was a discussion on the categorising of flood zones, before the final submission from Mary Murphy, who told us she’d been living here for 30 years. She reiterated points made by other speakers, about the recent developments in Cork Harbour and how this facility wouldn’t fit in, and she added that the well-being of the people working nearby should be considered. She also spoke on coastal erosion and traffic congestion, before bringing up the money that would be given to the community by Indaver – she said it sounds like they think the people can be bought.
The hearing concluded at half-five. The Cork Greens were able to set a date for our group submission and a few of our speakers – we’ll have my dad giving the branch’s submission, our secretary and election candidate Oliver Moran on Bottlehill, and I will be reading a written submission from Dan Boyle, former Green councillor, TD, and Senator.