Cork could become the waste processing capital of the world if a proposed incinerator for the harbour area was to become a reality, according to academics from University College Cork.
The claim was made at the oral hearing into the proposed incinerator for Cork Harbour in Ringaskiddy, which also heard concerns over a meeting between applicant Indaver Ireland and the HSE, and fears a well-developed bunker fire at the proposed facility could burn for more than a week.
Gordon Dalton of the UCC-affiliated Marine Renewable Energy Ireland Centre claimed the Indaver facility, if allowed, would produce 1/40th of Ireland’s industrial Co2 emissions.
“Cork will become the waste processing centre of the world,” said Dr Dalton, adding that, like his colleagues, he was speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of UCC. He also raised the prospect of a brain drain, stating if the plan proceeded, he would be seeking a new job elsewhere.
Pat Leahy, a lecturer on wind energy in UCC, claimed the presence of a wind turbine, erected in 2014 and just 500m from the proposed incinerator site, would create a greater dispersal area for plumes from the facility which would be “less controlled and predictable”.
The Cork Harbour Area for a Safe Environment (Chase) group has launched its own ‘plume plotter’ which it said showed the extent to which plumes could expand in the area.
Rory Mulcahy, senior counsel for Indaver, contested the figures and said evidence had already been put forward that the wind turbine would not have any significant impact on plume dispersal.
Peter Daly, a former chief emergency planning officer for the HSE, said the HSE’s submission on the proposal did not have an adequate public health element. He also said a fully developed bunker fire, at a time when the facility was operating at 4,000 tonnes of waste capacity, could burn for six days – and for more than a week if operating at its 6,000 tonne capacity.
It also emerged Indaver had met with the HSE around two weeks ago, with Chase claiming the group had not been informed.
The chief inspector leading the hearing, Derek Daly, asked that heads of the meeting be provided, while John Ahern, regional manager Ireland and UK for Indaver, said his colleagues would be able to provide information.
Chase chairwoman Mary O’Leary said it was “more evidence of meetings behind closed doors”.
The hearing was told by a delegation from PDForra, the representative body for members of the Defence Forces, that up to 1,100 personnel are on duty at Haulbowline Island at any one time and there were concerns about the evacuation of the island if there was an accident at the incinerator.
Mark Kane said, given the limited access to and from the naval base, it could take several hours to a number of days to evacuate.