Application to clean up toxic site in weeks
on 17/10/2013 00:00:00
It is considered to be one of the State's worst environmental disaster zones.
The Comptroller and Auditor General revealed earlier this month that almost €100m was spent last year cleaning up toxic and unauthorised waste dumps in Ireland - more than half of which, €52.3m, was spent on soil investigation surveys, disposing of waste material and foreshore ecological surveys on the Haulbowline site.
Now, Marine Minister Simon Coveney has confirmed that the legal ownership of key sites in the area has, within the last few days, been transferred to his department.
It clears the way for the minister to apply to the Environment Protection Agency for a licence to manage the area as a landfill.
It also clears the way for Cork County Council, acting on his behalf, to lodge a major planning application with An Bord Pleanála, under the Strategic Infrastructure Bill process, for a massive clean-up and remediation project.
The planning application is expected within a month, followed closely by the application to the EPA. Environmental experts have cleared the council to seek planning permission to:
* Remove tonnes of hazardous material which is exposed to the tide;
* Seal and encase the site with a membrane to prevent the leaching of materials into the harbour;
* Demolish the derelict steel-works buildings;
* Cap the entire site, including the hazardous East Tip and the cleared steelworks area, with tonnes of topsoil, before landscaping the remaining slag heaps for redevelopment as public parkland;
* And carry out improvements to the site's access bridge and roads.
Mr Coveney said he is confident of positive decisions on both applications within six months: "If the green light is given, we should see the start of physical works on the site by the middle of next year.
"We are spending €40m on the site and I am confident that more will be available, if it's needed."
The Irish Examiner first highlighted the scale of the Haulbowline scandal in June 2008, when a consultant blew the whistle.
The site contains slag heaps - byproducts of the steel-making process - including the deadly carcinogen chromium 6 and a number of heavy metals.
It's estimated the East Tip contains up to 500,000 tonnes of toxic waste.
The Government moved to tackle the site after the threat of hefty fines by the European Commission if it did not take action to secure the site and make it safe.