herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Probes at incinerator after chemical leak makes staff sick

Poolbeg incinerator, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin
Poolbeg incinerator, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin

Testing and commissioning at the Poolbeg incinerator remains suspended after 11 workers were taken to hospital following an incident at the €600m plant.

The workers went to St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin after complaining of nausea, breathing difficulties and blurred vision, which followed the release of a small amount of hydrated lime in the building.

Three investigations are under way: one by the incinerator operator, US firm Covant; a second by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), and a third by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which licences the plant.

The EPA said it would require Covanta to produce a full report, which would address "corrective and preventative actions" to be taken.

"On foot of this report and the EPA's own investigation, further action may be considered," it said.

The incident occurred at 10.45pm on Wednesday. Around 30 workers were dismantling scaffolding in a part of the building close to the boilers when a small quantity of hydrated lime, which Covanta said was no more than two cubic metres, was released inside the flue gas treatment area.

Dangerous

Lime is used to help remove dangerous toxins while waste is being incinerated.

Eleven workers complained of feeling ill and received medical attention on site, before making their way to St Vincent's Hospital. Two of them were detained overnight.

In a statement Covanta said that a "number of workers" were in an adjacent area to the gas treatment area and were taken to hospital for evaluation "as a precaution".

The statement added: "Combustion Unit No 1, which was operating at the time, was shut down.

"The lime was contained within the building and did not escape into the environment and the incident had no impact whatsoever outside the plant.

"Both the EPA and the Health and Safety Authority were notified of the incident, and the company is co-operating fully with them."

Covanta's managing director, John Daly, said the safety of employees and contractors was "of utmost importance" and it was undertaking a full investigation.

The Fianna Fail group on Dublin City Council called for the council to hold an emergency information meeting.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan described the incident as "extremely worrying".

The incinerator was first proposed more than 20 years ago and is designed to process 600,000 tonnes of waste a year.

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