Wednesday 18 October 2017

Eleven hospitalised after 'concerning' incident at Poolbeg Incinerator

  • Eleven workers taken to hospital
  • Scaffolders surrounded by cloud of lime accidentally released in treatment area
  • Workers complain of 'breathing difficulties, feelings of nausea and blurred vision'
  • Green Party describes incident as "a real concern"
Poolbeg Incinerator (Photo: Colin O'Riordan)
Poolbeg Incinerator (Photo: Colin O'Riordan)
(Photo: Colin O'Riordan)
(Photo: Colin O'Riordan)

Paul Melia and Alan O'Keeffe

Eleven people have been taken to hospital following an incident at the Poolbeg Incinerator.

The workers were taken to hospital after they were enveloped in a cloud of particles when it appears a door seal was breached at Dublin's new incinerator plant.

The incident happened last night when workers dismantling scaffolding at the multi-million euro plant were suddenly surrounded by a cloud of lime that was accidentally released inside the flue gas treatment area.

The incident occurred during the commissioning and testing of the waste-to-energy plant.

(Photo: Colin O'Riordan)
(Photo: Colin O'Riordan)

Workers in the area began to complain of breathing difficulties, feelings of nausea and blurred vision, according to one source today.

The 11 scaffolders were sent to St Vincent’s Hospital.

(Photo: Colin O'Riordan)
(Photo: Colin O'Riordan)

Nine have since been released but two remain in hospital this morning.

In a statement, operators 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 incident occurred at 10.45pm last night.

“Combustion Unit No. 1, which was operating at the time, was shut down in an orderly and controlled manner,” the statement added.

“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 & Safety Authority were notified of the incident, and the company is co-operating fully with them.”

John Daly, managing director of the Dublin Waste-to-Energy Ltd, added today; "A small amount of lime was inadvertently released inside the flue gas treatment area during the commissioning and testing of the Dublin Waste to Energy plant at Ringsend.

"At the time, there were a number of workers in an adjacent area. As a precaution, eleven workers were sent to St Vincent's Hospital nearby for medical evaluation.

"Two were detained overnight."

Mr Daly said the Covanta company, which runs the plant, is investigating the incident.

"The safety of our employees and contractors is of utmost importance to Covanta and we are investigating the incident thoroughly.

"We are investigating to understand what exactly occurred, but it appears from preliminary investigation that the release of the lime was due to a problem with a door seal in the fabric filter baghouse."

A Health and Safety Authority investigation team were beginning today to begin an examination of what happened. 

Workers were not being allowed into the area until a full investigation is complete.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan described the incident as a "real concern".

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke, the Dublin Bay South TD said; "This incident is extremely worrying, given the incinerator only began operations this week. This is a real concern for people working in the plant.

"For people who live in the area, for those who were hospitalised.

"This shows the nature of incineration and the risks that are involved."

In a statement issued to the media, he added; " Our thoughts are with the 11 people affected.

"We are extremely concerned at this incident happening so soon after incineration began at the site.

"The authorities need to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. We’re calling for all activities at the site to cease while the investigation is carried out."

Incinerator

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

Currently at the testing and commissioning phase, it will supply power to 80,000 homes and district heating to another 50,000 when it begins full operations in August or September of this year.

The plant was licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2008, with technical amendments made since.

Lime is used to clean the flue gas which contains dioxins and heavy metals during the combustion process.

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