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11 workers taken to hospital after 'uncontrolled release' in Poolbeg incinerator

Two people remain in hospital.

ELEVEN PEOPLE WERE taken to hospital after what is being described as an ‘uncontrolled release’ of lime within the Poolbeg incinerator plant in Dublin.

Nine people have since been released, and two people remain in hospital.

A spokesperson for Covanta, the company that runs the plant, said that late last night that “a small amount of lime was inadvertently released inside the flue gas treatment area” during the commissioning and testing of the plant.

“At the time, there were a number of workers in an adjacent area,” it said.

As a precaution, eleven workers were sent to St Vincent’s Hospital nearby for medical evaluation. Two were detained overnight.

It’s understood that no ambulances were called, but the exact condition of the workers is not known.

Boiler 1 of the plant, which was operating at the time, was shut down afterwards and the site remains closed today.

The Health & Safety Authority were notified at 6am this morning and investigators are currently on-site. The incident is being described as a ‘dangerous occurrence’, which means a serious event that may have consequences to human health or the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspectors are waiting outside the plant to commence investigations into whether the release had any impact outside the plant.

Covanta said the lime was contained within the building and did not escape into the environment, and the incident had “no impact whatsoever” outside the plant.

It went on to say:

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 baghouse is an air pollution control device that filters gas released during electricity generation.

Only burning waste since last week 

The controversial incinerator – which is located close to the iconic Poolbeg chimneys at the mouth of the Liffey – only started burning waste a week ago.

The project was first proposed two decades ago – but was held up for years before work finally commenced in 2014.

An agreement was signed for work to begin in September of 2014 after the four Dublin local authorities made an executive decision. Dublin City Councillors had voted against the project just weeks earlier.

The plant took its first delivery of waste in April, and the first burning of waste took place late last Thursday.

Many locals in the nearby areas of Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount still have concerns about the facility – regarding emissions and traffic in particular.

“Everybody is terribly disappointed. We didn’t really want it here – we didn’t have any choice,” one resident told earlier this year.

b1 Boiler One has been turned off. Covanta Dublin Covanta Dublin

Waste has only being processed in one of the two boilers so far, as the plant gears up towards full production. In an update last Friday, Covanta said:

During this initial phase of operation the plant will start-up and shut-down on several occasions as system optimisation tests are carried out.
This is normal during the start-up of a plant of this nature.

The Green Party has described this morning’s incident as extremely concerning.

“This incident is extremely worrying, given the incinerator only began operations,” party leader and Dublin Bay South TD Eamon Ryan said.

“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.

Fianna Fáil Dublin City Councillor, Paul McAuliffe called for an emergency information meeting for Dublin City councillors to be briefed on this morning’s incident.

Social Democrats Councillor Cian O’Callaghan said the incident raised serious concerns about the operations of the plant and that there needed to be a more transparent process between residents, the company and Dublin City Council.

- With reporting from Daragh Brophy.

Read: ‘I suppose we’re f****** stuck with it’: The Poolbeg incinerator is starting production

Read: Up and running: ‘First fire’ of waste at controversial Poolbeg incinerator

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