Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fire

Well it only took 12 days for the good people of Cork to formulate a response to Susan Phillips fact-of-the-matter opinion piece of a couple of weeks back. Today Marcia D'Alton of Passage West town council attempts a rebuttal. She starts with "Let us get one fact straight. It is not two incinerators which have now got to virtual approval level, but three." - a line deliberately desgned to imply that poor old Cork is getting hard done by.

However it's true that there will be two burners - one for the municipal waste and one for the toxic waste. Cork industry generates the vast majority of the toxic waste currently exported from the state and Cork is the second largest urban connurbation in the state. The largest (Greater Dublin and the North East) is getting the Drogheda and (ultimately) Ringsend municipal waste incinerators. So what's her problem?

She then goes on to claim that "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already licensed the operation of 10 hazardous waste incinerators. Six of these are in Cork Harbour... the more serious industrial players - and major waste producers - have, quite correctly, chosen to deal on site with their own waste". Well she's wrong - that's just factually incorrect. The current licensed incinerators in Cork deal with VOC emissions (basically solvent vapours escaping from processes) to burn these emissions to CO2 and water. The quantities involved are a fraction of the toxic waste generated by the pharmaceutical industry. 99% (i.e. everything that stays in the reactors, or gets condensed back to liquid form before escaping up the vents) is still getting shipped to Germany and Finland. To be burned.

I won't go on. Ms D'Alton deliberately clouds the issue for people not up to speed with the engineering aspects of the project. For example she compares the incinerator capacity of Austria and Ireland in terms of total population. That comparison is duff - it means nothing. Does she tell us the extent of Vienna's pharmaceutical and chemical industry, information that might be relevant in making such a comparison, for example? Of course not. Does she compare the Austrian population's attitude to preventing waste accumulation with the Irish population's attitude? Of course not. Would it be relevant to mention that recycling centres only become financially viable when massive quantities of material from high population density districts are available? Yes, but it wasn't.

And then the Utopian concept, beloved of those fearing a drop in their house prices - 'zero waste'. I'll say it again Ms. Dalton; what about the shitty nappies?
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