Irish Examiner - 20/10/05
PEOPLE living around Cork Harbour dismissed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reassurances yesterday following a report which showed a doubling in levels of dioxins in their neighbourhood.
An EPA statement said: “The overall average situation in relation to dioxin levels in the Cork Harbour area has improved since the national survey in 2000.”
But anti-incinerator group, Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE), said the results from samples in Ringaskiddy showed the EPA has failed to protect the environment.
An EPA report published yesterday showed that while dioxin levels in the air nationally fell an average of 20%, levels in Ringaskiddy have doubled since the survey in 2000.
Dioxin levels in milk from cows in the area jumped from 0.12 picogrammes (pg) per gram of milk fat in 2000 to 0.22pg.
EPA senior scientific officer Colman Concannon said he could not explain the rise and would be seeking more research.
But the EPA moved yesterday to play down the Ringaskiddy findings. A statement said the average dioxin level in three samples from the harbour area actually fell. The levels went from 0.24pg per gram of fat in 2000 to 0.203 pg per gram of fat in 2004, it said.
“They were even lower again than those in the first survey in 1995.
“While there was an increase in the sample from the Ringaskiddy area, conclusions should not be drawn from individual samples because of many causes of variability, for example the sources of milk cannot be exactly the same.
“All of the individual samples from the Cork Harbour area (Carrigtohill, Cobh, Great Island, Aghada, East Cork Harbour and Ringaskiddy) were less than one-tenth of the EU limit, which is 3.0pg per gram for dioxins in milk and milk products.”
CHASE chairperson Mary O’Leary said residents were not reassured.
“This is the air we breathe and this is the air we are concerned about. There are five EPA licensed incinerators in the harbour area and dioxins have doubled. It’s as simple as that,” she said.
Green Party TD Dan Boyle said: “It is high time that the Government and the EPA take the findings of increased dioxin levels in the area seriously.”
Indaver Ireland is awaiting an EPA decision on granting an operating licence for a toxic waste incinerator in the area.
Ms O’Leary said international evidence shows incineration is responsible for 70% of dioxins worldwide.
A decision, which was expected in June, was deferred earlier this week until December 31.
Mr Boyle called for a clear statement from the Environment Minister as to whether it is still Government policy to insist on locating a national toxic waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy.
“The already unacceptable risk posed to the residents of Cork Harbour, demonstrated again in this EPA report, can not be increased even further.”
Junior Environment Minister Batt O’Keeffe declined to be drawn on the Government’s position.
“The incinerator is now a matter for the EPA and that issue has still not been resolved. It’s gone through the planning and all the other processes. The matter is now with the EPA on whether or not to grant the licence” he said.
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment