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Eleven hospitalised following release of gas cloud at Dublin incinerator

Eleven people were hospitalised at Dublin’s new Poolbeg Incinerator last week after it appears a door seal was breached and lime was able to escape.

Eleven hospitalised following release of gas cloud at Dublin incinerator
The incident occurred on Thursday (8 June) at 10.45pm during the commissioning and testing of the new plant, which only took its first waste shipment at the end of April. Workers were taking down scaffolding at the multi-million euro complex when a cloud of lime used to remove harmful chemicals from the flue gas before it reaches the atmoosphere was accidentally released in the flue gas treatment area, spewing forth and engulfing them.

After complaining of breathing difficulties, nausea and blurred vision, eleven workers were taken to St Vincent’s hospital. All 12 were discharged by Friday evening.

A statement from Covanta, the €600-million plant’s operators, said a “number of workers” had been taken to hospital “as a precaution”. The statement went on to say: “Combustion Unit No. 1, which was operating at the time, was shut down in an orderly and controlled manner. 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 Dublin Waste-to-Energy Ltd, commented: "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."

Covanta and a Health and Safety Authority investigation team will now carry out an investigation into the causes of the incident, with workers being banned from the area until the investigation is complete.

Daley added: "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."

Politicians have expressed their concern over the incident, with Irish Green Party leader and representative for Dublin Bay South Eamon Ryan calling it a “real concern” while speaking on RTE Radio One's Today programme, saying: "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 separate statement 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."

The findings of the investigation at the Poolbeg Incinerator, intended to process 600,000 tonnes of waste per year and supply power to 80,000 homes over a 45-year contract, will be interesting to see, especially in the light of the £220,000 fine handed out to Suez on Wednesday (7 June) over an incident at its incinerator in the North East back in October 2014 when an employee was burned by escaping ash and steam.

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