By Marcus O’Garvey (Haulbowline) with thanks for the info to Metal Man (Sligo IT), Boffin Island (Haulbowline), Pat the Barker (Limerick), Tralee Rose and Others, 21 August 2008.
Note: This blog entry grew exponentially! Due to its large eventual size (it links out to a separate web page below) we have also made it available as a PDF file for download together with Part 2: Health risk.
DEPENDING on wind direction, humidity and rainfall (or lack of), the County Cork residents of Cobh, Ringaskiddy, Monkstown as well as Naval Service personnel, Irish Steel/Ispat and other civilian workers on Haulbowline Island itself have all suffered the horrors of airborne pollution from the Cork Harbour steelworks and all its associated industrial activities over the years.
To the great shame of this country and of its present Green-tinged government in particular, the air pollution from the site is an ongoing threat to human health. This despite the cessation of smelting by Irish Ispat in 2001 – which went into voluntary liquidation to deliberately avoid the costs of cleaning-up their act and paying damages, and got away with it by passing the buck to a government stupid enough to take it.
Haulbowline continues to tarnish the image of County Cork and the mighty Cork Harbour, scene of the illustrious Cork Week sailing races and port of call for luxury cruise liners. Forget the clean and green image; former Ispat is a toxic brownfield site resembling the worst industrial blackspots of Soviet era Eastern Europe. The legacy of importing by road and sea, from Ireland and across Europe, breaking-up and smelting scrap metal – meaning anything from ‘end of life vehicles’ to old factory fittings – is the dumping of great volumes of hazardous waste residue. This is a mixture of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, PVC, rubber, glass, asbestos, tyres, lead batteries, battery acid, engine oil, oil filters, hydraulic fluids, and electric arc furnace wastes (EAF dust, refractory linings, slag, cinders, soot, mill scale, and reject metal), plus other industrial rubbish such as oily sludge and acid waste from the metal curing and zinc galvanising baths.
The East Tip is composed of this dangerous muck cocktail. That is, the 9 hectares of the 35 hectare Haulbowline Island that ‘grew’ (by 2.5 hectares) during Ispat’s race to profit before EU legislation kicked-in in 2002 that required scrap metal, old vehicles and metal shredder residues to be classified as hazardous waste and to be recycled and disposed of in a manner that didn’t harm the environment and human health. That is, the tip levelled in part to make a football pitch for the Navy. That is, the tip which lies right next to naval vessels berthed at the Naval Basin, and to the nearby Naval Service Headquarters. That is, the tip, which on dry, windy days spreads its toxic dust like a shroud across the area’s inhabitants.
Is it any wonder that Naval Service personnel talk of cars parked on the Haulbowline Base covered in dust on dry days? Or of the taste and smell of metal when jogging in the ‘fresh’ Haulbowline air?
Dust to dust… Part 2: Health risk follows