Private incinerator planned for Louth/Meath border
BY ROISIN DE ROSA
Just weeks after Louth County Council rejected the North East Regional Plan for waste by incineration, the County Council executive attempted, last Monday, to reactivate the discussion in the council meeting. Councillor Arthur Morgan sought legal opinion, and informed the council executive in writing that it would be illegal and a contravention of Standing Orders if the executive were to attempt to rescind the decision made on 25 October rejecting the plan. This action by Arthur Morgan stopped County Manager John Quinlivan in his tracks, preventing him returning to the issue or reversing the vote.
d then a bombshell exploded. Rumour spread through the county like wildfire that a number of invitation-only meetings had been held last week in the south of the county, hosted by a multinational company called Indaver. These meetings were to discuss a proposal to build an incinerator just across the Louth border in County Meath at a small village called Carranstown. A glossy portfolio and brochure began to pass from hand to hand, outlining the proposal.
The proposal is for a ``waste-to-energy'' (incineration) plant costing £60 million to burn up 150,000 tons of non-hazardous waste per annum, from shops, factories, hotels, restaurants and households, at a minimum temperature of 850 degrees Celsius. The brochure alleges that ``at this temperature virtually all harmful toxins, including most dioxins, are destroyed''. In fact it is precisely at these high temperatures that dioxins and furans get created, emitted and dispersed.
The brochure deals extensively with notions of ``Community Recycling Parks'', and ``Recycling Plants.'' The company even includes a booklet on how to compost yourself in your own backyard, if you have one.
``Let no one be misled by all the butterflies, sunshine and pretty flowers on the brochure covers,'' said one speaker at the meeting. ``The `recycling park' is just more plastic containers to which you are to bring your rubbish, with lots of spruce trees dotted about on the computer simulated model. There is no investment in capacity for recycling of waste envisaged. It's window dressing, to smokescreen production and emission of the most dangerous chemicals known to man.''
``Do we have democracy or not?'' asked Arthur Morgan ``The regional plan has gone, rejected by the people's representatives, and within a matter of days, along comes a company planning do to exactly what local government overruled. This makes local government no more than a farce.''
Several hundred people came to a meeting last Monday in Drogheda to launch a campaign in Meath and Louth to stop the plan. The meeting was jointly chaired by Fine Gael Senator and Councillor Fergus O'Dowd and Niall McCann, an ex-councillor and barrister.
The people were angry, very concerned, determined and extremely well informed. People came from all over the North East Region to offer their wholehearted support and to work on a campaign that has been thrust upon them, and as everyone recognised will be long and expensive.
It emerged that Indaver nv, is 54% owned by Flemish Environmental Holding and 45% owned by 30 companies mainly active in the chemical industry, metals and automotive industries. Indaver employs some 800 people, handling over 1 million tons of waste in 11 European countries. In November last year, Indaver bought into 60% ownership of MinChem, an Irish-based hazardous waste company with offices in Dublin and Cork. MinChem employs 30 people and exports hazardous waste from Ireland to other European countries.
MinChem's Web site links to companies that aim to substitute non-fossil fuels in cement operations. These alternatives fuels include those derived from residues of solvents, rubbers, plastics, textiles and wood. CRH's Plattin Cement works is just down the road from the proposed incinerator site at Carranstown.
Meath County Council
A majority of Meath County Councillors had voted for the North East Regional Plan, never thinking that they might be chosen as hosts for the incinerator. One staunch opponent of the plan on Meath County Council was Sinn Féin's Joe Reilly, who addressed the meeting. He pointed out that the proposed incinerator was only 12 miles from Navan and just down the road from the Boyne Valley and Newgrange.
He also pointed out that there was a high probability that Kentstown landfill, which was proposed as the regional landfill site, would likely be the end dump for the toxic ash from the proposed incinerator.
Scientific evidence points out the toxic emissions from incineration extend to a radius of at least 40 miles. ``This proposal is another Sellafield, this time right on our own doorsteps, to be built under the auspices of our own government. It has to be stopped, for the health of this generation and future generations, not to mention the survival of our agriculture and tourism industry,'' said Joe Reilly.
Fearghal Daff, an environmentalist who has worked with the UN environmental programme in Nairobi, Kenya, wondered whether all of the Meath councillors who had adopted the waste plan for the region had even read the plan. ``Incineration is economic madness, and the costs, at every stage will fall on the people here.
``What is at stake here,'' says Arthur Morgan, ``is local democracy itself. Our councillors representing the strong feelings in our community rejected incineration. No company, however big, or powerful, however many friends in high places, should have the right to flout our decision. It is grossly unjust that we should now have to fight a lengthy and expensive campaign against a powerful multinational company to reinforce our decision.''
Chimney of Ireland
One of the many speakers at the meeting, Brian Hanratty, referred to Ludwig Kramer's recent dictum from the EU Commission that incineration inhibits recycling because it is a monster that has to be fed with waste that could otherwise have been recycled. He talked of dioxins as one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man and as an undisputed cause of cancer. He referred to the already high cancer rates in County Louth. ``Everyone here,'' he said, ``has some relative who in recent years has died of cancer. Drogheda will become known as the chimney of Ireland.
``And who will have to pay for this? Each of you raise your hand,'' he said, ``because it's you who will pay.''