21 August 2008

Dust to dust… Part 1

Toxic waste

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?


Visit the full article for more, much, much more! (It'll be worth it!)

Dust to dust… Part 2: Health risk follows

Dust to dust… Part 2

Health risk

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.

This blog entry grew exponentially! Due to its large size we have made it available as a PDF file for download together with Part 1: Toxic waste.


Haulbowline Island is a notorious toxic waste (“brownfield”) site smack-bang in the centre of Cork Harbour, on Ireland’s south coast. And it’s not just a dumping ground covered with heavy metal dust, aromatic hydrocarbons and PCBs. Part of the island itself, the East Tip, is actually made of the stuff. Nearly 9 hectares to be precise. That’s a hell of a lot of toxic waste. It also means (and sorry to ignore the poor old marine ecosystem for now) a hell of a lot of dust blowing around in the environment.

Part 1 of this diatribe showed that the dust, or “fugitive emissions” or “particulate matter” or “immissions” as it is otherwise called, did not just stop being produced and go away with the cessation of smelting in 2001 when Irish Ispat Ltd went into receivership. It continues to be liberated from the East Tip by the recent (and future) contaminated site remediation activities, with help from the wind on dry days. Whether you get a lungful/skinful or not depends on where you live and/or work (Cobh, Ringaskiddy or on Haulbowline itself) and which way the wind is blowing. Sort of Russian Roulette with nanogram (parts per billion) sized bullets of lead, zinc, chromium six, cadmium, arsenic, manganese, etc. etc.

What, then, does this heavy metal cocktail do to you? That is the question this Part 2 briefly addresses.

We are not even going to attempt to go near the cocktail mixers of dioxins, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). That is a job for our local (well paid) biomedical experts at Cork’s very own University Hospital and University College (not that they have had anything to say so on the subject far!!).

Part 2 variously borrows, copies and steals information from all over the Web and pastes it together to, well, scare the hell out of you! It is after all what the scientific experts and international health organisations have to say.

Bias? Yes, we have edited stuff to bring you the juicy “bad news”. But, we hope you may then be in a better position to both inform yourself and regurgitate biochemistry facts all over those nicey politicians who will want your vote next year during the local council elections. Give ‘em hell on the doorstep. They did, after all, give us Irish Ispat!


Visit the full article for more, much, much more! (It'll be worth it!)

Or return to Dust to dust… Part 1: Toxic waste

17 August 2008

No Minister! Some things you should know

This entry was orginally posted on 28 July 2008 on the Irish Military Online (IMO) Discussion Board for the Navy & Naval Reserve in the Irish Steel Mill thread by "Boffin Island" Recruit.

As a civilian employee at the naval base: How dare he? The Minister’s strident assertion that “There is currently no indication that the situation at the former Ispat site represents any risk to the health of Naval Service personnel or civilian employees at the naval base” is untrue and unacceptable.

There is plenty that currently indicates high risk to health and Willie O’Dea does and should know it. If he lacks the relevant reports, he could ask his cabinet colleague John Gormley for copies! For example:

2002 Enviros Aspinwall report to DCMNR

According to the qualitative risk assessment contained in the October 2002 report (‘Phase One Investigation and Assessment at Haulbowline Island, Cork Harbour, Cork’) by Enviros Aspinwall to the then Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources:

The East Tip (i.e. the area covered by slag, mill scale, bag house dust and other waste that was subject to intensive dust-creating work between November 2007 and April 2008) posed “high risks to humans, groundwater, surface water, marine ecosystem from leached metals, hydrocarbons and PCBs” and “high risks to humans from windblown dust” (p3).

The Main Site (i.e. where the now demolished former Irish Steel/Ispat steelworks buildings stood, adjoining the Naval Base) posed “high risk to humans from PCBs spills; high risk to marine ecosystem from metals from dust; high/moderate risks to humans from windblown dust” among others (p4).

The report specifically identifies “People – Naval personnel and other site neighbours” as being at risk from “Direct contact/ingestion of wind blown dust” (p32).

Table 6.2 Risk Assessment matrix for Irish Ispat is detailed and includes: “Human residents (neighbours sited on Naval base and Cobh)” are at risk from “Windblown dust” with associated hazard of “Long term health risks [Severe]” with likelihood of occurrence described as “Likely. The tip is unvegetated, dusts present on the tip may be mobilised and blown by the wind” which may or may not blow towards human residents. The potential significance is rated as “High Risk” (p33).

Also, the marine ecosystem was at “High Risk” and any humans without personal protective equipment on the East Tip were at “High Risk” with “High Likelihood” of “Direct contact, ingestion of soil, inhalation of particulates” with associated “Health risk [Medium]” (p33).

* The term “high risk” is used to mean “Harm is likely to arise to a designated receptor [i.e. human] from an identified hazard at the site without appropriate remedial action” (p29).

The 2002 report for DCMNR clearly points to heavy metals in the bag house furnace dust “including zinc and lead” which was “deposited on the East Tip until 1980 as a dust” (p22).

“This material comprises a fine dust which will require some form of treatment to facilitate handling and disposal or recycling on or off site” (p69).

2003 Bord na Móna report to Naval Service

The November 2003 report (‘An ambient air quality survey for selected parameters at the Naval Service Base, Haulbowline Island on behalf of the Naval Service undertaken over a six month period’ from March 2003 to September 2003) by Bord na Móna Environmental Ltd Technical Services is considered a baseline survey as “All of the results were obtained during a period of inactivity at both the east tip and the steel works” (p41).

Nevertheless, sampling of airborne dust (particulate matter or PM10) carried out at the football pitch (location PM-01) exceeded the standard 50 μg/m³ limit value on seven occasions over a 10 day period in March 2003. The report states that “any breach of the 50 μg/m³ daily limit value may be considered significant” (p2).

“The most obvious source of PM10 particles is the material located to the east of the sampling location on the east tip… during an easterly wind there is a significant probability of increased particulate levels impacting on the basin area” (p37).

“The exceedences correspond to a high number of recorded easterly wind hours during that time and significant machinery activity on the east tip. After this period, activity on the east tip reduced” (p2).

The implications are, of course, that when there is significant machinery activity on East Tip –- such as when the site was being cleared recently by contractors, especially between November 2007 and April 2008 –- and the wind is from the East (and presumably it is dry weather), then dust levels over the Naval Base are likely to be significantly higher than the daily limit.

On page 3 the Bord na Móna report states: “The level of activity at the east tip and the steel works during the sampling period was generally low apart from a period of machinery movement and scrap steel recovery on the east tip during the early phase of the sampling period. The results obtained from the selected parameters reflect this low level of activity. Therefore, the levels recorded for each of the parameters would be considered baseline levels.”

It then concludes: “Based on these results and comparison to the appropriate standards, there is no significant impact on ambient air quality in the basin and headquarters area of the island arising from the steel works and the east tip.”

If this conclusion is quoted out of context by a politician, it would sound like everything is hunky-dory. But it also means that there is a significant impact on ambient air quality in the basin and headquarters area when there is a high level of activity of the East Tip. Which the 2002 report goes on to warn:

“However, should the level of activity in these areas change due to removal of material on the east tip or structural alteration/remediation of the steel works area, it is probable that ambient air quality in the area will suffer a significant impact, particularly with regard to PM10 levels. This would be based on the impact of machinery movement on the recorded PM10 levels during the early phase of the sampling period” (p3).

Oh, and it says this about why “PM10” is so important, regardless of any chemical heavy metal cocktail it may be made of:

“PM10 is defined as particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 10 μm. This description is restricted to this physical characteristic and no particular chemical composition is implied. The size is of importance because it is this that determines where in the human respiratory tract a particle deposits when inhaled. Most concern is given to particles small enough to penetrate into the lungs to reach the alveoli. When inhaled almost all particles larger than 7 μm are deposited in the nose and throat, and only 20-30% of particles between 1 and 7 μm are deposited in the alveoli. The measurement of PM10 relies on the use of a size-selective instrument, which collects small particles preferentially” (p6).

2008 AWN Consulting report to Cork County Council

If the Minister isn’t satisfied yet, he can look at the 30 May 2008 report (‘Dust deposition monitoring in the region of the former Irish ISPAT plant, Haulbowline, Co. Cork (01/04/08 – 01/05/08)’) by AWN Consulting Ltd for Cork County Council.

Since July 2005, continuous monitoring of dust deposition has taken place at four locations: on Haulbowline Island (A) Naval Base Dockyard and (B) Naval Base Church, and at (C) Ringaskiddy (until 5/6/07) and (D) Cobh Town Centre. The AWN report “details the results of monitoring over the period 01/04/08 – 01/05/08 (i.e. April 2008)”. The standard daily limit of dust deposited is 350 mg/m²/day.

During April 2008, the average monthly levels of deposited dust per day were:

(A) Dockyard ------ 114 mg/m²/day

(B) Church --------- 1267 mg/m²/day

(D) Cobh ----------- 47 mg/m²/day

“The dustfall levels at one of the three measured locations for the April 2008 period exceeded the TA Luft annual limit of 350 mg/m²/day, reaching 362% of the limit at the Naval Base Church on Haulbowline Island. The monthly deposition level at the Naval base dockyard and at Cobh reached 33% and 13% of the TA Luft limit vales respectively” (p2).

TA Luft is an international limit for air pollution. Clearly there was a huge amount of dust in the air over the Base in April when the contractors were removing heaps from the East Tip. From the 2005 White Young Green report (see below) released by the Dept. of Environment, we know that the ‘soil’ they were digging up and shaking to separate dust for shipping to Germany was a cocktail of heavy metals and other toxic substances. The other thing for sure is that if it was in the air, it was capable of being breathed in by anyone on the Base in April.

And it’s not just April 2008 that had high dust levels. At the Church on the Base (location B) the 350 mg/m²/day limit (monthly average) was exceeded in March 2007, February 2008 and March 2008 as well:

6/3/07 to 2/4/07 ----- 494 mg/m²/day

4/2/08 to 3/3/08 ----- 583 mg/m²/day

3/3/08 to 1/4/08 ----- 428 mg/m²/day

2005 White Young Green report to Cork County Council

Now that Minister O’Dea knows it was very dusty on the Naval Base, and that the Government was warned in 2002 of the “high risks to humans from windblown dust”, and that a study in 2003 found significant breaches of airborne dust (PM10) limits, what did he and his Cabinet colleagues know about the chemical substances in East Tip that was turned into dust by machinery and activities in clearing the site?

The September 2005 report (‘Factual Geo-Environmental Report: Contamination and Geotechnical Assessment, Former Irish Steel Site, Haulbowline Island’) by White Young Green Ireland Ltd for Cork County Council first of all refers to environmental investigations by KT Cullen & Co in 1995 and 1998 as well as O’Callaghan Moran & Associates (May 2002) and Enviros Aspinwall (October 2002):

All of the reports highlighted the potential risks to humans and 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 sludges containing high levels of metals and mill scale on-site” (p1).

“According to the KTC report 1995, the East Tip is predominantly comprised of slag (approximately 45 000 tonnes/year) with laboratory chemicals, hot flume dust, oil and grease and domestic waste. Prior to the 1980 s the fine filter dust was deposited with the slag without being processed, but was palletised and exported from the early 1980’s. In 1994 a part of the East Tip was reclaimed for the development of a Naval football pitch” (p6).

The 1995 KT Cullen & Co report concluded:

“The materials dumped on the East Tip are a significant potential source of heavy metal contamination of sediment and groundwater as demonstrated by the laboratory analyses” (WYG p7).

The 1998 KT Cullen & Co report concluded:

“…observations at the site suggest that the uncompacted waste near the ground surface has a high permeability. The permeability of the waste is expected to be highly variable due to the following factors: The nature of the deposited materials varied from fine dust or sludge to coarse metal fragments; The shallow waste was much less compacted than the deeper waste; and The waste below the water table was flushed by the tide which may have allowed some dissolving and washing of the finer particles” (WYG p8).

The 2002 O’Callaghan Moran & Associates report for KPMG Corporate Recovery (i.e. the receivers for Irish Ispat Ltd production facility on Haulbowline Island) identified:
  • Hazardous waste was disposed of at three separate locations; the former dock and waterway, the South Tip and the East Tip. That there is documentary evidence to confirm or strongly suggest disposal of furnace dust, waste oils, organic solvents and PCBs at the South and East Tips. That there is a possibility that similar wastes were disposed at the dock and waterway.

  • Process wastewater treatment sludge containing high levels of metals may have been deposited on-site.

  • A coal gasification plant was demolished ca. 1960. Such plants are recognized as sources of PAHs and can be a significant contaminant. There is a strong possibility that the contaminated demolition debris from the gasification plant has been disposed of on the site.

  • The furnace dust assessment established that it readily leaches lead and zinc and in sufficient quantities is toxic to marine organisms.

  • The East Tip was used for disposal of production wastes. The primary contaminants identified were heavy metals, oils and PCBs. However the investigation by OCM did not assess all potential contaminants and there was no investigation on the South Tip.” (WYG p8-9).
The OCM survey of Contaminated Soil and Groundwater identified the following:
  • “Contaminated demolition debris from the former coal gasification plant and possibly the galvanizing plant may have been used as fill. No site investigation data for the main plant is available to confirm the nature of the fill material.

  • Furnace dust emissions with high levels of zinc and lead and lower levels of other metals would have been deposited in the vicinity of the main plant prior to installation of the furnace dust collector. Such dust, which is susceptible to leaching zinc and lead by rainwater, could result in elevated metals in exposed soils on the site. …” (WYG p9).
Appendix I of the 2005 WYG report (600k pdf) lists results of laboratory chemical testing on 'soil' sample from trial pits and bore holes on the Base. It looks like a nightmare to me!

Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium (including the infamous Chromium 6 or Hexavalent Chromium), Copper, Lead, Nickel, Vanadium and Zinc all have very high levels in many of the trial (i.e. surface) pits. There is also lots of hydrocarbons –- if this was an offshore oil rig like the Brent Spar, the thing would have been shut down by the authorities and Greenpeace would be all over it by now! Then there are the PCBs –- any they are bad.

What does this cocktail do to you? If just one of these metals and chemicals cab be carcinogenic, what does breathing in all of them in one go do to you?


Maybe Minister O’Dea should come down to Haulbowline Naval Base and get himself a good long lungful of dust on a dry day with the wind blowing from the tip, whilst the contractors resume their digging and shaking (poor devils!)? Maybe he should come work here for several months, even years? In fact, why doesn’t he relocate his Department to Haulbowline Island? I’m sure the unions would have something to say about it then! He too can then take this toxic dust back home on his clothes to his wife and kids!

Now let's hear him dare to say: “There is currently no indication that the situation at the former Ispat site represents any risk to the health of Naval Service personnel or civilian employees at the naval base.” Wake up and smell the chromium Minister!

Me? I’m off on me hols to Chernobyl. I hear it’s a lot safer there!

Everyone duck! There's a pink elephant flying over Haulbowline Island!

This entry was originally posted on 28 July 2008 on the Irish Military Online (IMO) Discussion Board for the Navy & Naval Reserve in the Irish Steel Mill thread by "Boffin Island" Recruit.

These extracts are from Irish Examiner 28 July 2008:

Moustache forever? O’Dea answers your questions
By Paul O’Brien, Political Correspondent

THE need to “tighten the belt” because of the economic squeeze should not mean cutting anybody’s wages — politicians included, Defence Minister Willie O’Dea has said.

In the first of a new series in which Irish Examiner readers get to quiz members of the Cabinet, Mr O’Dea answers questions on a wide range of issues today — from the Lisbon Treaty to The Simpsons television show. … Elsewhere, Mr O’Dea says there are no indications that the toxic waste at the former Irish Ispat/Steel plant in Haulbowline, Co Cork, poses a threat to those working on the naval base which is in close proximity.

When demolition of the steelworks at the plant commenced in 2005, dust-monitoring equipment was installed.

The data collected to date does not suggest that activities on the steelworks site have had a significant impact on the environment or might pose a threat to the Naval Services at Haulbowline,” Mr O’Dea says.

As a precaution, the Department of Defence has hired consultants to carry out soil and air analysis across the naval base. …

Can you give assurances that the toxic waste buried on the old Irish Steel/Ispat site on Haulbowline poses no threat to the navy?
D McCARTHY, Bishopstown, Cork city

O'Dea answers: “The health and safety of all Defence Force personnel and employees is of primary concern to me. There is currently no indication that the situation at the former Ispat site represents any risk to the health of Naval Service personnel or civilian employees at the naval base.

When demolition of the steelworks at Haulbowline commenced in the summer of 2005, it was agreed by all interested parties that dust monitoring equipment be installed on the naval base. The monitoring equipment selected and installed in two locations on the base includes Bergerhoff dust deposition gauges, to record total dust fall-out on a monthly basis, and PM-10 monitors to record the respirable fraction of fine dust in real time. In layman’s terms, this means that dust-generating events on the steelworks site can be identified and controlled as they happen.

The data collected to date does not suggest that activities on the steelworks site have had a significant impact on the environment or might pose a threat to the Naval Services at Haulbowline.

Purely as a precautionary measure — following the excavations on the East Tip — we have engaged environmental consultants RPS Group plc. They will carry out sampling and conduct soil and air analysis across the naval base checking for heavy metals and other species. This investigation has already commenced. It is expected to be completed by the end of August.”

12 August 2008

No place to be a dolphin

By Karlos Marx

PCBs, Cadmium, Chromium 6, Copper, Lead, Nickel, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons… Is this anyway to treat our cetacean cousins?

The scandalous saga of former Irish Ispat and the toxic slag heap from hell (East Tip) on Haulbowline Island is not just a human health disaster. It is also a very real threat to the several species of protected marine mammals which frequent Cork Harbour.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has recorded schools of bottlenose dolphins (
Tursiops truncatus) on numerous occasions. Also harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and orca (Orcinus orca). Other species sighted within Cork Harbour include common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and even the odd stray Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and pilot whale (Globicephala melas). Neither should we forget the seals: the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) and grey seal (Halichoerus grypus).

Bottlenose dolphins were observed off Ringaskiddy in August 2003 when 20 or so animals including a calf remained in the vicinity for nearly a fortnight. According to the IWDG they were using an area between East Ferry, Spike Island, Haulbowline, Roche’s Pt. and outside the harbour from Myrtleville (IWDG). Similar bottlenose activity was reported in Cork Harbour in August 2002. In September 2005 a group of between 20-30 bottlenose dolphins were seen bow-riding a container ship in front of Cobh, and between Spike Island and Whitegate refinery (IWDG).

In May 2007 a school of bottlenose dolphins was seen bow-riding the naval vessel LE Aisling, east of Cobh Town, near the Cork Harbour pilots station (IWDG). They were also seen in the Passage West/Lough Mahon inner harbour area and feeding on grey mullet alongside the LE Ciara off Whitepoint. On previous days they were sighted between Passage West and Great Island, Cobh and between Whitepoint and Ringaskiddy, where they have been observed feeding in water as shallow as 2-3m depth (14/5/07).

Local IWDG members, Conor Ryan and Peter Wilson have been monitoring a school of six ‘resident’ bottlenose dolphins, which in favourable weather can be seen on a near daily basis from places like Roche’s Point, Camden and Carlisle Forts.

The IWDG states: ‘In common with all 24 Irish cetacean species, bottlenose dolphins are afforded full protection under the Irish Wildlife Act 1976. In addition, along with the much smaller harbour porpoise (
Phocoena phocoena), they are also an Annex II species on the EU habitats directive, which means that both the animals and their habitats are afforded priority protection under EU law.’

All marine mammals are protected in Irish waters under the 1976 and 2000 Wildlife Acts. Under the 1992 EU Habitats Directive, all cetaceans are included in Annex IV of the Directive as species ‘in need of strict protection’. Bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, grey and harbour seals are all additionally included in Annex II of the directive as species requiring the establishment of Special Areas of Conservation (marine SAC).

Clearly, this raises questions about the threat to the conservation status of these species posed by the former Ispat site and toxic East Tip that forms a significant intertidal part of Haulbowline Island. The Island is known to be surrounded by marine sediments contaminated with high levels of heavy metals, complex aromatic hydrocarbons, endocrine-system disrupting PCBs and other hazardous organic substances that were introduced into the Cork Harbour marine ecosystem and food web by the ongoing industrial (including brownfield remediation) activity on Haulbowline.

Is it time that higher authorities (the European Commission, OSPAR Commission, Convention on Migratory Species?) become involved and demand that the Irish Government stop their delaying tactics, corner-cutting, penny-pinching and procrastination and just get on with the job of securing and cleaning up this toxic threat to the marine ecosystem and its protected species?

Told you the shrimp was off!

By Seriously Concerned (& Others) of Cobh/Haulbowline

Until recently, it was common to see the lads of various ages fishing with rod and tackle from the bridge between Ringaskiddy and Haulbowline Island. Also down on the shore at both Paddy’s Point and Rocky Island.

In the middle of July 2008, even after the Chromium 6 had hit the fan (front page Irish Examiner 26/6/08), at least two local potting boats were seen by Cobh residents fishing off the toxic East Tip. Apart from the obvious likelihood of heavy metal poisoning for anyone eating the shrimp, green crab or lobster catch, the pots probably disturb the sediments and help redistribute the heavy metals and other contaminants around Cork Harbour.
  • Why are there no “fishing prohibited” notices around Ringaskiddy, Cobh, Rocky Island and Haulbowline to warn anglers (including the large number of visitors to Cork Harbour from elsewhere in Ireland and from overseas who wouldn’t be aware of the local dangers of the Ispat legacy)?

  • Why are fishing boats still potting, especially off the East Tip? We thought there was supposed to be a ban on fishing these toxic grounds anyway?

  • What happened to the catch? Did the shrimps and/or other crustaceans get sold locally (to posh restaurants) or was it exported and is now poisoning some Spanish kid?

  • What does BIM and the Marine Institute have to say about this travesty?
According to Evin McGovern PhD (Senior Chemist, Marine Environment and Food Safety at the Marine Institute) there is an environmental monitoring station for wild mussels (Mytilis edulis)* at Ringaskiddy near the bridge to Haulbowline.

On 11 July 2008 she told Mark Masterson (Senior Scientist with White Young Green Environmental (Ireland) Ltd) who is currently investigating sediment contamination around Haulbowline Island as part of WYG consultancy report to the Department of the Environment, due in late August:
“You will note high lead (Pb) at the site near Ringaskiddy - shoreline on the channel opposite Spike Island”
That would be Paddy’s Point and the West Channel then.

The Marine Institute spreadsheet data highlighted in red clearly show that mussels at Ringaskiddy are contaminated with lead (Pb) and in the past (when Ispat was active) with Cadmium, Zinc and probably other metals as well. Note that not all the toxic metals known to be in East Tip (Appendix I of WYG 2005 report) are being monitored!

The limits (i.e. “strictest standard and guidance values applied by various OSPARCOM countries for contaminants in shellfish for the assessment of the possible hazards to human health”) that we added to the spreadsheet are taken from Department of the Marine July 1995 document.

* Mussels are sedentary filter-feeders which readily accumulate contaminants from the surrounding seawater and are recommended indicators of marine environmental quality.

Sediment contamination

It is, of course, unsurprising that the marine sediments both around Haulbowline and within the Naval Base Dockyard are contaminated with the full range of toxic waste and settled dust emissions from the former Irish Steel/Ispat site on the Island.

The ‘Report of Seabed Samples - Naval Base Haulbowline, June 2003’ by Hydrographic Surveys Ltd of Crosshaven for the Department of Defence at Haulbowline clearly shows high levels of sediment contamination at the Naval Basin (locations 1-5), near Spencer’s Jetty (locations 6-7) and in front of the recently burned out Glucksman Marine Building, which housed the UCC Coastal and Marine Resources Centre overlooking Rat Island (location 8).

The samples were collected on 23 June 2003 and analysed by Mercury Analytical Ltd, Limerick. Note: 1 ‘part per million’ (ppm) is the same as 1 ‘mg/kg’.

OSPAR BC* mg/kg (or ppm)

Haulbowline mg/kg (or ppm)

Sample Location




5 Basin




5 Basin




5 Basin




5 Basin




5 Basin




5 Basin




5 Basin

* BC or “Background concentrations” are OSPAR assessment tools intended to represent the concentrations of certain hazardous substances that would be expected in the North-East Atlantic if certain industrial developments had not happened. They represent the concentrations of those substances at “remote” sites, or in “pristine” conditions based on contemporary or historical data respectively, in the absence of significant mineralisation and/or oceanographic influences. In this way they relate to the background values referred to in the OSPAR Hazardous Substances Strategy. BCs do not represent target values and should not be used as such. Source: Agreement on Background Concentrations for Contaminants in Seawater, Biota and Sediment (OSPAR Agreement 2005-6).

This is not new knowledge. A 1992 report ‘Analysis of sediments from Haulbowline’ by EOLAS for the Department of Defence at the Naval Base. In June 1997 the report ‘Haulbowline Naval Base - Analysis of Sediment Prior to Dredging and Disposal by Dumping at Sea’ commissioned by the Department of the Marine and carried out by UCC Aquatic Services Unit, gives the following (highest) levels of metals in sediments (mg/kg) in the Naval Basin:






























It is not just around Haulbowline Island that the sediments are contaminated. Analyses of sediment grab samples taken just off Cobh deepwater quay (west of the Heritage Centre and railway station) by Glover Site Investigations Ltd in June 2007 and September 2007 in connection with dredging on either side of the existing berthing basin for the giant cruise ships found similarly (highest) levels of metals (mg/kg):

June 2007

Sept 2007

























So, anyone fancy fish for supper?

SCIENCE: Provisional Assessment of Recent Studies on Health Effects of Particulate Matter Exposure

US EPA report (EPA/600/R-06/063) July 2006

Executive Summary

In the proposed rule on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (PM), EPA committed to conduct a review and assessment of the numerous studies relevant to assessing the health effects of PM that were published too recently to be included in the 2004 PM Air Quality Criteria Document (AQCD). This report presents the findings of EPA’s survey and provisional assessment of such studies. EPA has screened and surveyed the recent literature and developed a provisional assessment that places those studies of potentially greatest relevance in the context of the findings of the 2004 PM AQCD. The focus is on: (a) epidemiologic studies that used PM2.5 or PM10-2.5 and were conducted in the U.S. or Canada, and (b) toxicology or epidemiologic studies that compared effects of PM from different sources, PM components, or size fractions. Given the limited time available, the provisional assessment presented here does not attempt to critically review individual studies or to provide the kind of full integration found in a typical AQCD.

This survey and assessment finds that that the new studies expand the scientific information and provide important insights on the relationships between PM exposure and health effects of PM. Taken in context, however, the new information and findings do not materially change any of the broad scientific conclusions regarding the health effects of PM exposure made in the 2004 PM AQCD. In brief, this report finds the following:

• Recent epidemiologic studies, most of which are follow-ups or extensions of earlier work, continue to find that long-term exposure to fine particles is associated with both mortality and morbidity, as was stated in the 2004 PM AQCD. Notably, a follow-up to the Six Cities study shows that an overall reduction in PM2.5 levels results in reduced long-term mortality risk. Both this study and the analysis of the ACS cohort data in Los Angeles suggest that previous studies may have underestimated the magnitude of mortality risks. Some studies provide more mixed results, including the suggestion that higher traffic density may be an important factor. In addition, the California Children’s Health Study reported that measures of PM2.5 exposure and PM components and gases were associated with reduction in lung function growth in children, increasing the evidence for increased susceptibility early in life, as was suggested in the 2004 PM AQCD. The results of recent epidemiologic and toxicology studies have also reported new evidence linking long-term exposure to fine particles with a measure of atherosclerosis development and, in a cohort of individuals with cystic fibrosis, respiratory exacerbations.

• Recent epidemiologic studies have also continued to report associations between acute exposure to fine particles and mortality and morbidity health endpoints. These include three multi-city analyses, the largest of which (in 204 counties) shows a significant association between acute fine PM exposures and hospitalization for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and suggestions of differential cardiovascular effects in eastern U.S. as opposed to western U.S. locations. The new studies support previous conclusions that short-term exposure to fine PM is associated with both mortality and morbidity, including a substantial number of studies reporting associations with cardiovascular and respiratory health outcomes such as changes in heart rhythm or increases in exhaled NO.

• New toxicology and epidemiologic studies have continued to link health outcomes with a range of fine particle sources and components. Several new epidemiologic analyses and toxicology studies have included source apportionment techniques, and the results indicated that fine PM from numerous sources, including traffic-related pollution, regional sulfate pollution, combustion sources, resuspended soil or road dust, are associated with various health outcomes. Toxicology studies continue to indicate that various components, including metals, sulfates, and elemental and organic carbon, are linked with health outcomes, albeit at generally high concentrations. Recent epidemiologic studies have also linked different fine PM components with a range of health outcomes; new studies indicate effects of the organic and elemental carbon fractions of fine PM that were generally not evaluated in earlier analyses.

• The recent epidemiologic studies greatly expand the more limited literature on health effects of acute exposure to thoracic coarse particles (PM10-2.5). The 2004 PM AQCD conclusion that PM10-2.5 exposure was associated with respiratory morbidity is substantially strengthened with these new studies; several epidemiologic studies, in fact, report stronger evidence of associations with PM10-2.5 than for PM2.5. In two new casecrossover studies, associations with thoracic coarse particles are robust to the inclusion of gaseous copollutants. For mortality, many studies do not report statistically significant associations, though one new analysis reports a significant association with cardiovascular mortality in Vancouver, Canada.

• Evidence of associations between long-term exposure to thoracic coarse particles and either mortality or morbidity remains limited.

New toxicology studies have demonstrated that exposure to thoracic coarse particles, or PM sources generally representative of this size fraction (e.g., road dust), can result in inflammation and other health responses. Clinical exposure of healthy and asthmatic humans to concentrated ambient air particles comprised mostly of PM10-2.5 showed changes in heart rate and heart rate variability measures. The results are still too limited to draw conclusions about specific thoracic coarse particle components and health outcomes, but it appears that endotoxin and metals may play a role in the observed responses. Two studies comparing toxicity of dust from soils and road surfaces found variable toxic responses from both urban and rural locations.

• Significant associations between improvements in health and reductions in PM and other air pollutants have been reported in intervention studies or “found experiments.” One new study reported reduced mortality risk with reduced PM2.5 concentrations. In addition, several studies, largely outside the U.S., reported reduced respiratory morbidity with lowered air pollutant concentrations, providing further support for the epidemiological evidence that links PM exposure to adverse health effects.

SCIENCE: Vanadium pentoxide inhalation

Review article in Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2007) Vol 11, Issue 3, pages 97-103 by Ross G. Cooper at Division of Physiology, UCE Birmingham, UK.


Context: This mini-review describes the toxic effects of vanadium pentoxide inhalation principally in the workplace and associated complications with breathing and respiration. Although there are some material safety data sheets available detailing the handling, hazards and toxicity of vanadium pentoxide, there are only two reviews listed in PubMed detailing its toxicity. Aim: To collate information on the consequences of occupational inhalation exposure of vanadium pentoxide on physiological function and wellbeing. Materials and Methods: The criteria used in the current mini-review for selecting articles were adopted from proposed criteria in The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Articles were classifi ed from an acute and chronic exposure and toxicity thrust. Results: The lungs are the principal route through which vanadium pentoxide enters the body. It can injure the lungs and bronchial airways possibly involving acute chemical pneumonotis, pulmonary edema and/or acute tracheobronchitis. It may adversely influence cardiac autonomic function. It stimulates the secretion of cytokines and chemokines by hepatocytes and disrupts mitochondria function. It disrupts the permeability of the epithelium and promotes access of inflammatory mediators to the underlying neuronal tissue causing injury and neuronal death. When renal brush border membrane vesicles are exposed to vanadium pentoxide, there is a time-dependent inhibition of citrate uptake and Na+K+ATPase in the membrane possibly contributing to nephrotoxicity. Exposure results in necrosis of spermatogonium, spermatocytes and Sertoli cells contributing to male infertility. Conclusion: Vanadium pentoxide certainly has adverse effects on the health and the well-being and measures need to be taken to prevent hazardous exposure of the like.


This mini-review describes the toxic effects of vanadium pentoxide inhalation principally in the workplace and associated complications with breathing and respiration.[1] Vanadium is a by-product of oil-burning furnaces when vanadium pentoxide (MR 181.88) is deposited in the flues. It is an odorless gas.[2] Inhalation is the principal route of entry into the body and may result acutely in severe pneumonitis with associated mucus membrane irritation and gastrointestinal disturbances. Ambient vanadium pentoxide dust produces irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.[3] Over long periods, inhalation may potentiate chronic bronchitis, eczematous skin lesions, fine tremors of the extremities and greenish discoloration of the tongue.[1] As it has a rapid renal clearance, it may be monitored in urine specimens to determine exposure to vanadium pentoxide (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, ACGIH and British Education Index, BEI) 50 ìg.g-1 creatinine for an end-ofshift, end-of-workweek sample.[1] Most absorbed vanadium is excreted in the urine within one day after a long-term moderate exposure to vanadium dust.[4] ... The workplace exposure limit for vanadium pentoxide is according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 0.05 mg.m-3/8h.[1] MSDS[2] details airborne exposure limits of 0.5 mg.m-3 (ceiling) for vanadium respirable dust and 0.1 mg.m-3 (ceiling) for vanadium fumes. ...

Although there are some material safety data sheets available detailing the handling, hazards and toxicity of vanadium pentoxide,[2,24] there are only two reviews listed in PubMed detailing its toxicity.[25,26] The aim of this article therefore was to collate information on the consequences of occupational inhalation exposure of vanadium pentoxide on physiological function and wellbeing. An attempt to classify the like according to functionality of certain selected organ systems was decided. ...

Lungs: Vanadium pentoxide is regarded as a less soluble form of vanadium and is therefore eliminated from the lungs at a slow rate.[28] Inhalation of vanadium pentoxide can injure the lungs and bronchial airways,[2] possibly involving acute chemical pneumonotis, pulmonary edema and/or acute tracheobronchitis.[25] Symptoms include irritation and inflammation of the mucus membranes, nasal passages and pharynx.[2] Clinical complications include a persistent cough, shortness of breath, bronchiolar constriction, tightness of the chest and a pseudo-asthmatic inflammation.[2] In a study of 40 plant workers previously free of lung disease and exposed to vanadium pentoxide, 12 had bronchial hyper-reactivity and symptoms of asthma.[29] Vanadate acts directly on human bronchial smooth muscle promoting the release of Ca2+ from intracellular store via the production of inositol phosphate second messengers and inhibition of Ca2+-ATPase and causing spasms.[30] Occasionally pulmonary edema and/or pneumonia may result with fatal consequences.[2] First aid measures following inhalation include removing the patient into fresh air and applying artificial respiration if breathing has expired. Oxygen is needed if breathing is labored and it is essential to seek medical attention.[2] Vanadium pentoxide dust may be a potential mutagen via induced chromosomal aberrations in man[31] and hamsters.[32] ... There may be a pathological pattern within the lung which may be associated with the pattern and/or extent of vanadium deposition.[40] Its cumulative effect in lung tissue possibly contributes to the development lung cancer. ...

Circulatory system: Chronically, exposure to airborne metals including vanadium may result in alterations in cardiac autonomic function.[43] Vanadium induces thrombocytosis and may be associated with various thromboembolic diseases.[44] Acute studies of vanadium pentoxide inhalation on the heart in experimental animals revealed that there was myocardial vascular congestion was observed, with focal perivascular haemorrhages.[6] Studies in humans has revealed palpitation of the heart, high incidence of extrasystoles, changes in the blood picture (anemia, leukopenia, punctatebasophilia of the erythrocytes) and reduced levels of cholesterol in the blood.[45] Limited studies have suggested a positive correlation between vanadium inhalation in urban air and mortality from cardiac failure, despite an absence of lifestyle determination.[46]

Liver: Acutely, vanadium is a potent inhibitor of many enzymes, while it stimulates adenylate cyclase. It has been shown to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis and lower plasma cholesterol levels. Vanadium can also directly influence glucose metabolism in vitro and may play a role in its regulation. Lipid peroxidation of rat liver microsomes and mitochondria was induced by sulphite and accelerated by the presence of vanadium compounds.[6] Severe acute exposure (tens of mg/m3) is responsible for systemic effects. Most frequent findings in animal experiments were in the liver, kidneys, gonads and the nervous, hematological and cardiovascular systems.[45] Chronically, histopathological changes observed in the liver following the higher level of inhalation exposure (27 ìg/m3 for 70 days) included central vein congestion with scattered small hemorrhages and granular degeneration of hepatocytes.[6] ...

CNS: Severe acute exposure to vanadium pentoxide has major patho-physioloogical manifestations on the nervous system.[6] Inhalation thereof produces a time-dependent loss of dendritic spines, necrotic-like cell death and considerable alterations of the hippocampus CA1 neurophile, all associated with spatial memory impairment.[51] Additionally, there is a decrease in the number of tyrosine hydroxylase immunreactive neurones in the substatia nigra pars compacta.[52] Within the ependymal epithelium, cilia loss, cell sloughing and cell layer detachment occur after vanadium pentoxide inhalation.[53] The damage results in disrupted permeability of the epithelium and promotes access of inflammatory mediators to the underlying neuronal tissue causing injury and neuronal death.[53] In humans, severe chronic exposure results in general symptomatology including nervous disturbances, neurasthenic or vegetative symptoms.[6]

Kidneys: Severe acute exposure (tens of mg/m3) is responsible for aberrations in renal function.[6] Vanadium concentrations of 25 μg/g dwt. in the kidneys are associated with mortality in ducks acutely exposed to sodium metavanadate.[47] Chronic exposure to increasing dietary concentrations of sodium metavanadate (38.5-2651 ppm) over 67 days resulted in vanadium accumulation in the kidneys of 13.6 μg/g dw.[47] It is unlikely though that such concentrations would have been achieved via inhalation. ...

Testicles: Chronic ingestion of vanadium may have significant consequences for infertility by damaging spermatogenesis. Studies in mice have demonstrated that inhalation of vanadium pentoxide results in necrosis of spermatogonium, spermatocytes and Sertoli cells.[58] Vanadium accumulates in the testes and attenuates the percentage of gammatubulin in all analysed testicular cells, suggesting changes in microtubules used in cell division.[59] Vanadium also induces DNA damage.[60] Leydig cells may not be affected by vanadium pentoxide as testosterone levels remain unchanged.[61]


This mini-review has contributed to a brief synthesis of the literature which is currently rather scattered in nature into a compact format. Its main thrust was from both an acute and chronic exposure and toxicity angle. Vanadium pentoxide has adverse effects on health and well-being and measures need to be taken to prevent hazardous exposure of the like. Medical monitoring of workers exposed to the dust or fumes; workplace monitoring and measurement of ambient concentrations; dealing with contaminated attire and establishing personal hygienic procedures; dealing with emergency spills of dust; enforcing protocols for emergencies and hazardous waste management; and the use of inspected respiratory and personal protective equipment, are all essential in reducing toxic exposure.

Vanadium pentoxide exposure (acutely and chronically) in both experimental animal and human studies indicates a systemic patho-physiological and pathological influence on cell metabolism and tissue function. Therefore procedures need to be implemented in environments which potentially expose workers to vanadium pentoxide including influences on respiratory function and appropriate quality guidelines enforced. The lungs are likely to accumulate more vanadium particles than elsewhere particularly from polluted air. The lowest observed-adverse-effect level for acute exposure can be considered to be 60 μg vanadium per m3. Indeed, chronic exposure emanates as slight changes in the upper respiratory tract, with irritation, coughing and injection of pharynx, to more serious effects such as chronic bronchitis and pneumonitis. Persons suffering from lung problems including asthma and cystic fibrosis would need to ensure that they take adequate measures to prevent vanadium irritation of the mucosae. Obviously, however, a systemic assessment via renal and liver function tests needs to be completed in order to make an accurate clinical assessment of the influence of vanadium on body function and ultimately the efficient maintenance of homeostasis. More research is required to establish and add to the limited existing knowledge on the toxicokinetic and toxicological database on vanadium pentoxide. Indeed, there is limited understanding of the potential for dermal absorption and the potential long term effects as a result of sequestration in body tissues such as bone.