Community activists have welcomed the eventual publication of a health impact study examining whether the residential communities of Maydown, Strathfoyle and Culmore might be experiencing adverse health effects as a result of exposure to industrial activity.
The report was completed by Ben Cave Associates Ltd. in the spring of 2015, after having been commissioned by the old Derry City Council to look at the affects of industrialisation on community health in the North East of the city, and to review, among other things , information regarding cancer clusters in the study area.
This followed a Northern Ireland Cancer Registry finding of a lung cancer cluster in the Enagh and Culmore electoral wards with lung cancer rates 58 per cent higher than expected.
The study, which was seen by this paper in the spring of 2015 and, which has now, finally been published, reported: “The review of information regarding cancer clusters in the study area identifies the need for further information. “Studies of other residential communities near industrial areas show that causation is difficult to establish.”
The report also recommended adopting the “precautionary principle.”
Its publication was halted for over a year when Foyle Port’s lawyers wrote to Derry City and Strabane District Council challenging its “fundamental flaws.”
Back in August 2015, the Port said: “The draft report is fundamentally flawed in a number of important material respects and our legal representatives have written to the Council setting out in a positive way how the draft report can be changed so as to meet the brief originally set out for the Assessment by the Council. “We await the Council’s response.”
This prompted a campaign to force publication of the report by local residents including Paul Hughes of the Enagh Youth Forum, who was cleared at Derry Magistrate’s Court in July of obstructing police during a protest about non-publication.
Mr Hughes said: “It’s been a very long campaign to get this Health Impact Study Assessment Report published. It should never have taking so long. Local people here in Strathfoyle and in Culmore also feel vindicated now that the report has finally been published.
“Local industry and businesses must become ‘good neighbours’ and recognise that there is a community here.”
Mr Hughes described the naming of a new £4m Foyle Port tug boat, the ‘Strathfoyle,’ as tokenism.
“What we need is real community engagement not token gestures like naming a new boat after the local area,” he said.
He added: “Publishing this study is one thing; but implementing the recommendations is another thing entirely. We are calling on Derry City and Strabane District Council to implement the recommendations as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for Foyle Port said: “As a statutory consultee, Foyle Port was asked to comment on the recommendations the Council has made based on the report.
“Foyle Port is working constructively with the Council on a number of key issues and was happy to contribute.”