04 August 2008

UCC researchers pointed to Ispat problems in 2001

Contributed by Cobh resident (name withheld)

LOSPAN Phase 2 Report, January 2001 "Developing Monitoring Protocols for Spatial Policy Indicators" available from UCC Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (CMRC), Haulbowline Island, Cobh, Co. Cork

Cork Harbour: Eight principle issues of interest in the environs of Cork Harbour were identified as part of Phase 1. These include: agriculture; employment; water quality; tourism and recreational use; land use and development; fishing; atmospheric emissions and conservation. ...

Irish Ispat Ltd., situated on Haulbowline Island in the lower harbour, remains the only steelmaking and rolling plant in Ireland. In recent years it has been developed into one of Europe's most modern steel industries. Significant movement of seaborne traffic occurs at regular intervals at the Haulbowline plant, as 90% of its rolled steel output is exported. ...

Air Quality
Air quality monitoring in Ireland remains focused on the measurement of sulphur dioxide and particulates (smoke) with simultaneous measurements of daily values of the two pollutants at almost 60 monitoring sites throughout the country, mainly in urban areas. The standards currently in force in Ireland follow from EC Directive 80/779/EEC (CEC, 1980) on air quality limit values for SO2 and suspended particulates which specifies limit values for annual, winter and daily reference periods. The levels of both smoke and SO2 in 1998/1999 were very low and fully compliant with the Irish air quality standards (Air Quality Monitoring annual report 1998, EPA). The Air Quality Framework Directive 1996 (96/62/EC) provides a framework under which the European Commission is bringing into force a range of daughter directives to tackle a wide range of priority air pollutants throughout Member States.

Emissions from point sources typically arise in the context of industrial processes; ambient air quality monitoring is just one way of monitoring/assessing the impacts. Complementary stack emission monitoring is commonly carried out to ensure compliance with licensing requirements. Dispersion modelling allows the likely impacts of these emissions to be determined numerically, facilitating comparisons with limit and guideline values for ambient concentrations. As the accuracy of such predictions is uncertain, emissions monitoring and dispersion modelling cannot always provide reliable estimates of pollution effects. The measurement of atmospheric pollution concentrated at dispersion points in the vicinity of a point source remains the most reliable method of determining air quality. A complete assessment of air quality through monitoring alone requires a well distributed and maintained network of monitoring stations, employing reliable and accurate measurement equipment. However these are expensive and it is important that monitoring campaigns are carefully planned to ensure that as much useful information as possible is gathered with the available resources.

The European Air Quality Framework Directive requires that areas around significant point sources be defined as air quality zones and that the air quality is assessed at least every five years. This requires the completion of short monitoring campaigns in the vicinity of the point source (Optimal Monitoring of Air Quality in the Vicinity of Point Sources - report for EPA, Feb., 2000).

Air quality data are obtained largely from Local Authority monitoring programmes and also from the Environmental Protection Agencies monitoring activities. In order to comply with Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) license requirements, industrial companies must carry out their own emissions monitoring and incorporate the data in their license application. Data from the many industries in Cork harbour is held at the EPA regional office in Inniscarra, Co. Cork. It is evident that the majority of the industries situated in the harbour comply with the IPC license requirements. The EPA contacted the pharmaceutical company Warner Lambert, which is situated in Ringaskiddy in Cork harbour, in January 2001, commending them on having a compliant audit and noted the efforts made to comply with the requirements of the IPC license. This is not always the case however and much controversy surrounding air pollution from Irish Ispat (steel industry) in Cork Harbour has occurred over the past number of years. Numerous records exist of complaints from the naval base at Haulbowline and from local people in the area surrounding Ispat. These complaints refer to emissions causing significant environmental pollution. A letter sent to Ispat in January 2001 from the EPA required Ispat to cease all activities giving rise to these emissions and if this did not occur then the agency will apply to the High Court for injuncture relief against the facility. Irish Ispat responded to the EPA's 'Air monitoring report' of Jan. 23, 2001 and acknowledged that guideline limit values were exceeded on a number of occasions and that the probable cause of this was due to the castor fans. Irish Ispat proceeded to point out that an abatement system has been decided upon and instalment planned for April 2001 and that ambient levels of various pollutants will be reduced significantly.

In an EPA report on Ambient Air Monitoring at Haulbowline Naval Base June-August 2000, a mobile laboratory was used. Levels of lead, benzene, SO2, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide were measured and none of these exceeded directive limits during the monitoring period. However concentrations of PM10 particles exceeded the annual limit value for the protection of human health. On three episodes where very high levels of PM10 particles were recorded, it was noted that easterly winds were blowing from the Irish Ispat steel plant to the Naval Base (information provided by the EPA, Cork). ...

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