The environmental challenge presented by the former steelworks on Haulbowline did not manifest overnight. It is the legacy of an industrial past. For many years the steelworks were a significant employer in the Cork area and an important part of the local economy. The site has the potential once again to contribute to the economic and indeed social life of the area. First, however, the legacy issue must be addressed.
Since 2003 my Department has had responsibility for the management of the facility on an interim basis pending a decision by Government on the future use of the site. This has included enabling a site investigation to be carried out to assist the Government in determining the best option, environmentally and economically, for its future use.
In light of the situation created by the unauthorised actions of contractors on the site, I have moved to address the more immediate, very understandable and legitimate concerns of the local community. I have made available the entire report on the 2005 site investigation, including the full suite of technical data which it generated. I have also made available the reports on the ongoing monitoring of the site which has been carried out over the intervening period. My Department has arranged with the consultants who produced the 2005 report that they will clarify any technical issues which may be raised.
This information is the total of the reports and investigations of the site arranged by my Department. The 2005 report in particular summarises earlier desk studies and, more importantly, reports on comprehensive intrusive site investigation which included extensive analysis of soil, water and air, including sub-surface testing for heavy metals. These reports have indicated no immediate threat to human health or the environment in the locality, while recognising that this is a contaminated site which will ultimately require an extensive and co-ordinated resolution.
In light of the recent events my Department has re-engaged the consultants to carry out an independent and rigorous assessment of current site conditions. This assessment is under way and will involve analysis of soil, slag, dust, surface and ground water samples for all likely contaminants, including heavy metals such as chromium. The results will be published.
My Department and other relevant agencies are properly engaged in the management of this legacy site in a manner which is consistent with good practice and minimisation of risk to human health and the environment. A coherent overall approach rather than piecemeal action, which could inadvertently cause problems to the local community and the environment, must be taken and that is the objective being pursued now by my Department.