Day six began with Professor Vyvyan Howard, expert on epidemiology, telling us about nanoparticles coming from incinerators. He said they’re not adequately filtered out, and if they were the filters would be so fine that they would block the stack. Nanoparticles are so small, he said, that they behave like gasses; and if you define “safe limit” based on mass (weight), you’d need vast numbers to make that up.
Vyvyan told us that the smaller the particles are, the further they travel. Substances stick to them when they’re that small, we heard, so they carry dioxins – and the smallest act as catalysts, so they affect reactions in our cells. Nanoparticles can also cause inflammation in the lungs, and one study showed they cause a 15-17% increase in cardiovascular mortality.
He told us that children are the most vulnerable, as proportionally they breathe in more than adults, and that some schools in Cobh up on the hill will need a degree of protection.
Ex helicopter pilot, Michael Griew, spoke next. He described low level helicopter routes over Cork Harbour – how they fly over Crosshaven, Carrigaline, and go on to Cork Airport. This is crucial to being able to carry passengers with the least amount of fuel used, but more importantly in terms of medical emergency or evacuation, he said. It’s essential for the rescue helicopter to be able to fly anywhere in the Harbour area. Finally, gas pipeline inspectors use the Harbour in their job, we were told. Michael said that all the helicopter traffic could be hindered by the incinerator.
My dad Gordon Reid raised a concern with Vyvyan Howard relating to the health effects nanoparticles would have on birds. Their capillaries (part of the lung) are only four micrometres in diameter, as opposed to ours which are 60 – and so it’s easier for a bird’s capillary to become inflamed and blocked. Vyvyan agreed, and said that was probably the reason for the decline in bird populations in towns.
Dad then asked if there was a defined safe limit for nanoparticles, and the response was “No.”
Further questions were raised on whether nanoparticles would contribute to rises in asthma in children and whether there would be ongoing, real-time testing of emissions from the stack. Jody Power, who raised the matter, said that if testing only took place on one day of the week, in the interim period waste that generates high emissions could be burnt and it wouldn’t be monitored.
Next submission came from an expert in waste management who’s been in the industry for over 30 years – Mr McDowell – I didn’t catch his first name. He said that many European countries are seeing reductions in the amount of waste produced, and that using old technology will not futureproof Ireland’s economy.
After Mr McDowell Patricia O’Sullivan, planning consultant to CHASE, gave her objection to the Inspector. She reminded us of the story so far, spoke on the history of the site, and referenced the issue of the identity of the applicant. She said the site is unsuitable as it’s at the end of a cul de sac, and that Cork Harbour is one of the nation’s major assets, that it’s irreplaceable. She went on to criticise the visual impact of the plant, and to say that this old technology had no place next to the clean, modern technology of IMERC and the Beaufort Institute.
Lunch today was tea and scones. (I’m quickly running out of pocket money!)
We returned to the hearing for a prolonged discussion on the issue of the waste transfer station and the R1 formula. The question was raised, Why are Indaver saying they’re opting for both heat and electricity production, when there is no district heating network? – Why are they clinging to this site? And also, Why is there a concrete plinth in the application, with no purpose at all, in exactly the same place and of exactly the same size as the plinth in the previous application, which had a WTS on it?
A question about the WTS at their Antwerp facility was put to John Ahern. He tried to claim it is “not an integral part” of the site, and it was asked of him, What does “not an integral part” mean? Eventually it transpired that it meant it wasn’t on the site, right next to the incinerator, but they do use it in the sorting of waste.
Don Ryan, of the sports club Cobh Pirates spoke of his group’s concerns for their athletes and young players; he said they have 315 under 18’s, and their members of all ages play in all sports from ladies’ football to camogie to hurling. He said how fantastic it is that so many people around the Harbour area are joining sports clubs. Next was Aideen Whitston, a representative of CHARD, who painted for us a picture of Cobh as a vibrant town, and said that as she works as a tour guide, she hoped she never had to explain the incinerator to tourists.
Orla O’Connell, a solicitor who grew up in Cobh, spoke of her love for her town, as she asked Indaver to imagine for a moment the beauty of the Harbour as she described it to them. She said that no PR person from Indaver could paint a rosy picture of the incineration industry that she would believe.
Lastly we heard Stephen Thornhill, an agri-food economist and lecturer at UCC. Stephen outlined ten reasons why the incinerator would not make sense from an economic perspective.
In his fourth reason he said that it would contravene our commitment to Sustainable Development Goals. He focused on Goal 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. In SDG 12.3 we have committed to halving our food waste; in SDG 12.4 to reducing the release of chemicals and all wastes to air, water, and soil; and in SDG 12.5 to substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. There is no mention of incineration.
Stephen said we need to substantially reduce our household waste generation, but building an incinerator will be a disincentive to that. He added that once we do reduce waste generation, there should be very little left for an incinerator to burn.
In his sixth reason Stephen said that to any sceptics as to whether zero waste is achievable, there are already many examples around the EU. He gave an interesting example of a town of 50,000 people in Italy that were threatened with a planned incinerator in the late 1990’s. They developed a waste collection scheme that separated 82% of the waste when collected, and with the 18% residual waste they investigated it, and found things like coffee capsules and disposable nappies. They then lobbied to introduce recyclable and biodegradable capsules and subsidised washable nappies, and are now well on their way to zero waste, with no need for incineration.
And in his eighth reason Stephen focused on impacts to the ecosystem, saying that the problem of nano-particle and chemical contamination as a result of incineration poses a fundamental risk to our well-being and economy. He argued that we should not be allowing more pollutants to enter our ecosystem, endangering our bee population, putting at risk our food production, and entering our food and making it unsafe.
“Our ecosystem is too important to take risks with,” he said. Given that our ecosystem is at the heart of the fabric of life, Stephen added, we should at least apply the precautionary principle.
He also said that by developed countries being more responsible for the environment, it could help reduce the number of freak weather events witnessed in underdeveloped countries in recent years. He urged policy makers and planning authorities to consider this.
The hearing rounded up at half four or so, due to resume at six for the evening session – I’ll have that written up shortly.