Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Question 434: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the standards used to determine the safety levels at Haulbowline Island by a company (details supplied) in its recent report were in fact the threshold values for industrial use, not residential use; the way, in view of the fact that these levels exceed the internationally accepted limits for residential use by many multiples, it is appropriate to reassure persons working on the island as well as the residential inhabitants of Cork Harbour that there are no identified risks to the residents. [46537/08]
Question 435: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make available to the public and consult with it over the alternative proposals for the future of the toxic dump on Haulbowline Island before he brings a report to Government for decision on whatever actions are shown to be necessary. [46538/08]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 434 and 435 together.
My Department re-engaged consultants, White Young Green (WYG), to carry out an independent and rigorous assessment of current site conditions on Haulbowline, following recent works on the area of the site known as the East Tip. This assessment comprised three distinct modules, and the consultants had available the advice of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Marine Institute and the Health and Safety Authority in their development:
1. assessing quality of surface water, marine sediment and mussel bivalves in the vicinity;
2. assessment of any health or environmental risks posed by current site conditions;
3. ambient air monitoring.
Analytical results in respect of the above modules were compared against the most relevant and appropriate comparative screening values in all cases. Ambient air monitoring was undertaken in accordance with relevant national and international occupational exposure limit values, finding that air quality complied with all relevant standards and guidelines, including in Cobh which was the main population centre that was monitored, and that there is no occupational risk to human health from airborne substances.
Similarly the assessment of water, sediment and mussel samples employed the relevant applicable screening criteria and found no identifiable risk to the residents of Cork Harbour, though some findings do merit further investigation and monitoring. In the case of assessing the health and environmental risks posed by potential contaminants in the waste material on the East Tip itself the screening was undertaken using threshold screening values for commercial/industrial use. These human health generic assessment criteria which are derived from guidance issued in the UK are considered most appropriate for the site and are conservative for on-site exposures for current land use. In that context any exceedances of these screening values identified in the report do not suggest a risk to health of people on site undertaking normal activities or to those in the Cork harbour area including the Naval Base.
Furthermore, at the request of the local residents and public representatives, it was arranged that the site assessment reports be reviewed by independent experts in order to offer reassurance to the local communities that the scope of works, tests and analysis employed conform to best international practice in determining whether there exists any immediate health or environmental threat posed by the site. Professor Phillip Morgan (Sirius Geotechnical & Environmental Ltd) and Dr. Marcus Trett (Physalia Limited, Consultant & Forensic Ecologists) carried out this peer review and considered the aspects of the WYG reports relating to the potential risk posed by contamination present in, on or under the land to human health and environmental and ecological receptors that could realistically be impacted by such contamination. The peer reviewers considered that, overall, the reports represent work that is of a quality consistent with good professional practice for such projects.
In relation to consultation with the local communities my Department and I have previously met with the local residents and, while their views are well known to my Department, it is intended that further consultation will take place in the New Year prior to my submitting proposals to Government in respect of the future use of the site.