No Poolbeg Incinerator

View all news

Craig Cox

For the past 18 years, a battle has been quietly fought by a small network of Dublin communities. Residents of Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount, under the campaign name Combined Residents Against Incineration (CRAI), have been fighting the proposed, and now progressing, construction of a massive incinerator on the edge of Dublin port. While the issue has been dominant in the mindset of these residents for nearly two decades, it has only occasionally crept into public awareness during that time.

The incinerator, benevolently referred to as a “Waste-To-Energy” facility by construction company Covanta and Dublin City Council, will burn up to 600,000 tonnes of waste material per year in order to produce electricity for an estimated 80,000 homes. Since the announcement of the plans, CRAI and other local residents have mounted repeated campaigns to put a stop to it, from legal challenges to government petitioning to street protests. A number of carrots have been dangled in front of the locals, such as a community gains fund that would be small percentage cut from the initial development cost of the facility, but they have consistently rejected any offers made. Not only are the residents concerned about the potential health, ecological and economic effects that an industrial incinerator will have on the area, they are also rightly incensed by the complete disregard for public will that has been shown by decision makers.

Outside of the fact that the construction of an incinerator contradicts the Department of Energy’s supposed enthusiasm for investments in renewable energy, the sheer negligence in regard to ecological effect is awe inspiring. The actual volume of the waste burned will decrease to between 30 and 50 percent of its original mass, which if you go according to the quotas will mean between180,000 and 300,000 tonnes of toxic ash which then needs to be dumped anyway.

Then there’s the effluent to be produced by the incineration process itself. The dioxons (a type of industrial process chemical by-product) given off by this form of waste management are connected to foetal and child development issues with particular effect on sexual development. They are also well established carcinogens. Any studies read have been carried out on non-human animals, so the human effect is unclear but strongly implied, but of course the fact that they are proven to have these effects on other animals is enough in itself to convince anyone with a degree of empathy towards non-human life that the industrial production of these chemicals is something to be halted.

To add to the concerns regarding pollutants is the fact that the scale of the waste quota is too large for the Dublin city area to meet and so in order to avoid paying penalties to Covanta for not meeting these targets, waste from outside the city area will have to be shipped in. This means an increase in heavy vehicles transport and the resulting higher production of engine pollutants. (It should be noted that Covanta seems to have developed quite a racket in collecting fines from taxpayers for waste quotas not reached. A quick glance at the homepage of the now unmaintained website will demonstrate this.)

While all of the ecological and health outcomes of the “waste-to-energy” process need to be considered and to cause concern, what’s also important to consider is how the whole push for this incinerator is evidence of Dublin City Council’s skewed waste management policy. The attitude towards the high level of waste that excessive consumption causes is not that the issue of consumption is something to be collectively addressed, but that its by–products need to be dealt with in a short term, environmentally unsustainable manner that ultimately benefits multi-national corporate interests.

There’s also the completely undemocratic process through which the contracts and impetus for this project where established. In regards to matters of waste management, the Dublin City Council CEO (a bizarre post in a supposedly democratic government system, held at the time of writing by Eoin Keegan) has sole authority and final say. This means that Keegan was able to ignore the near unanimous vote by Dublin city councilors in September 2014 to cancel the plans for the incinerator and grant final planning permission for the site to be developed. So despite years of community campaigning and petitioning and the disagreement of elected public representatives, the unelected CEO of the city was able to push plans for the incinerator over that final regulatory hurdle.

In terms of how things stand at present (May 2015), construction work has begun enthusiastically on the incinerator site in the Dublin industrial area of Poolbeg. CRAI are mounting a legal campaign to contest the construction based on a breach of contract in the development plans. This case needs to be taken to the commercial courts and so they need to raise the initial court fee of €50,000 euro, as well as potentially another €30,000 in legal fees. The group’s primary focus is on this legal campaign, and they have chosen to keep their attention on this and not to become involved in organizing any other actions (which is completely understandable considering they have been fighting for 18 years and are a small group of organisers). That said, there is still enthusiasm within the local community for other forms of protest, and there is a protest planned for June 4th at 4pm at the Sean Moore roundabout, which is just outside the Poolbeg industrial area.

What this campaign needs now above all else is a higher degree of awareness amongst the broader Dublin population. The near operational incinerator will have an effect on the health of a much broader ecology than just the Ringsend area. It is also yet another example of how unrepresentative and removed from public will or concern the political system is in this country.

Media attention has been sporadic but there is a resource of information online. Please make yourselves aware of this quiet yet dramatic injustice that is being snuck in under the Dublin population’s radar, and, if possible, attend the next campaign meeting or the protest planned for next month.

Campaign FB Page:
No Poolbeg Incinerator


Categorised in: