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The clean-up of Haulbowline Island - An Update
November 2011

In 2009 CHASE made a submission to the Petitions Committee of the EU expressing its frustration at the Irish Government’s lack of recognition of or action on the toxic slag heaps on Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour.

As a result of a written petition made to the Petition Committee Mary O’ Leary CHASE was invited by the Committee to go to Brussels in April 2011 to make an Oral Submission to the Committee.
As Chairperson of CHASE, Ms O’ Leary outlined the concerns of the community about the lack of action by the Irish Government in relation to Haulbowline and the estimated 500,000 tonnes of toxic waste stored there.

She outlined that many reports have been commissioned over the last 16 years and apart from some toxic waste being removed from the island in 2099, none of the recommendations had been followed. CHASE argued the point that if the waste on Haulbowline was a problem or posed a threat to our health and environment in the past, as documented in 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005 , then it was still a problem in 2011, yet nothing was being done.

“All the reports to date have shown contamination of the harbour by this illegal toxic site”.
And the reports “ highlighted the potential risk to humans and to the environment from materials dumped and spilled on site. This included potential heavy metal contamination leached from waste slag and furnace dust, waste oils, organic solvents, PCBs, PAHs and radioactive material. Historical site activities may have disposed of sludges containing high levels of metals and mill scale on-site”
Ref; Haulbowline Island; White Young Green Ireland Ltd 2005 Report

She further went on to outline that;

“Directive 2006/12/ECi Article 6 requires that waste management plans are put in place to address hazardous waste disposal. The community contends that it is not an option for Ireland to simply leave the contaminated site in such a way that it can act as a long term source of contamination.

The degree of contamination is serious. None of the recommendations suggested in any of the reports have been carried out. We have had ten years of prosperity where money was available to tackle this problem, yet little was done. The fear of the community now is that the issue will be put on the back boiler for another ten years and we will have to live with the consequences.

In conclusion we know:

• The toxic waste located on Haulbowline is polluting Cork Harbour.
• The North East tip of the site is being breached by the high tides. This results in the contaminated waters from the site being flushed into the harbour.
• The excavation pits are still exposed, allowing dust from the pits to blow around the site and across to the naval base in dry weather.
• No bund wall has been built in the 16 years since it was recommended.

The communities have waited and been patient for long enough for the authorities to take their responsibilities seriously. Sadly this has not happened.

We trust that the committee examines this failure on the part of the Irish Government to protect its citizens and that you will take up this matter through all available channels.”

Ref; Submission to Petitions Committee made by Ms M. O’Leary, Chairperson, CHASE 2011.

Sean Kelly MEP and Orlaith Mc Carthy made additional submissions on Haulbowline on the same day. As a result of this meeting the EU sent a formal notice to the Irish Govenrnment expressing their dissatisfaction and gave the Government an ultimatum to take action or have heavy fines imposed on the State.

Minister Simon Coveney has now taken on the responsibility to lead the Licence application to the EPA . This will outline the conditions and the series of works that will need to be carried out to cap remove or contain the waste. Funding of 40 million Euro has been approved by Cabinet over 2 years.

While the licencing process will take approximately12-18 months to complete, it has been decided to carry out immediate works on the North shore of the island in two areas that have been breached by the sea. This will stop contaminated water being washed off the island in times of high tide which will give comfort to all who witness the event at each high tide.

The work entails the use of specialized membranes being laid down to reduce penetration by the sea and these membranes will be covered by clean fill which will be built up to form a flood defence barrier.

At the time of writing this work is now complete and that area of the North shore of the island has been secured. This for clarity is not a bund wall and just deals with an area of approximately 25 meters of shore line.

It is a relief to see work eventually being carried out and it gives hope to the community that at last Haulbowline will be cleaned up and contained as far as possible and cease to be a source of serious pollution and an eye sore in the middle of the harbour.

On 22.11.11 two members of the Petitions Committee (PC) will visit Haulbowline to inspect the work to date and to get an update on the progress being made on the application for a licence to the EPA.
The Working and Steering Committee will attend the meeting and the PC members will also meet with the petitioners to discuss the progress.


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Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment
Bishop's Road, Cobh, Co. Cork
Tel - 021 481 5564      Email -
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