Cork County Council has used ‘cabinet confidentiality' to refuse FIE their technical reports and in internal communications relating to the ongoing clean up of the Irish Steel site on Haulbowline Island, County Cork.
The steelworks occupied 11 ha of the central portion of the island and 9 ha known as the East Tip. Almost all has been created by infill and is subject to tidal influence. While 100,000 tons of contaminated soil has been exported in 41 shiploads to Germany for treatment to date, almost 500,000 tons remain.
However, documents released to FIE by the EPA show that ‘emergency response activity' was triggered when a contractor's machinery sank into a toxic ‘sludge pit' on 2 February 2008. The contractor was given ‘no knowledge that there were oil sludge pits at surface level'. It is now alleged that Reports held by the Irish authorities show they knew of the dangers to which the workers would be exposed but these documents were not disclosed.
Contaminants includes heavy metals such as mercury, zinc and lead as well as hydrocarbons, PCBs and Chromium 6, highly toxic carcinogens. Radioactive material is also present.The latest report seem by FIE last month spoke of ‘contaminated mud under the constant influence of tidal movements and percolating rain water which we would deem necessitating emergency treatment immediately.’
Every indication is that this is the largest and most extensive pollution incident in the history of the state.
Read our view in the Irish Examiner