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Over the last decade in Ireland, the dredge licensing application process has become a significantly more detailed and lengthy process. The dredging license application process now incorporates a wide and comprehensive range of environmental analysis and must also include consideration of public health. Health impact assessment (HIA) has increasingly become a prominent aspect of environmental impact assessment in Ireland as the public becomes more aware of projects and the planning process. Incorporating HIA into the environmental assessment process for dredging applications has so far been limited. With the advent of international and national guidelines, HIA is now considered to be a component in the overall environmental assessment process, and in particular the optioneering stage of a dredging license application process. Public health must also be addressed in the prescription of environmental mitigation measures in the final proposed dredging procedure. This paper reviews the HIA process in conjunction with environmental assessment processes currently required in Ireland for dredge license applications. The paper contains direction on the typical public health considerations that need to be included in a HIA process and how it plays a role in determining the eventual fate of dredge spoil. The paper comprises an overview of existing information regarding public health concerns related to dredging processes and the application of the principles of a HIA model into the optioneering process of a dredging project on the east coast of Ireland at a port located within an urban environment in close proximity to residential areas (Arklow Port, Co. Wicklow). A preliminary HIA was conducted for this dredging project to assess the most viable disposal method for moderately contaminated port sediment while minimising potential public health and environmental impacts. The HIA model utilised (Fehr Model) allowed for a preliminary assessment of four alternative dredge spoil disposal methods and contributed to optimising chosen disposal methods mitigation measures to minimise public health impacts.
dredging, health impact assessment, sediment contamination, public health
Centre for Safety and Health at Work, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, Univ. College Dublin, Dublin,