Public health fears as tonnes of blood dumped in a forest
TONNES of animal blood were dumped in a remote forest during the hottest weeks of the year.
Three agencies are now investigating the potentially devastating public health and environmental consequences of the disturbing and illegal dumping.
The Irish Independent has learned that the illegal dumping is believed to have taken place at night in the isolated forest in north Cork and involved a large tanker spraying the mixture into undergrowth.
The mixture involved animal blood and sludge similar to the wash-off from an abattoir or meat plant.
Environmental officials were appalled at the discovery and warned that there could be "very serious public health implications" if the foul substance entered local water systems.
Gardai, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Cork County Council are now investigating.
The illegal dumping would have gone unnoticed, but for an alert Coillte official becoming suspicious of a dreadful stench emanating from the remote woodland.
The recent warm weather only made the smell more obvious and helped highlight the dumping of the blood.
"It was initially thought that something large had died in that part of the forest because the smell was so bad," one source said.
"However, traces of the spraying was still visible and, when it was realised what was involved, the alarm was raised."
Coillte last night admitted they were horrified by the revelations and are working with the EPA, Cork Co Council and gardai to identify the culprit.
"Coillte can confirm we are working closely with the council and the EPA following illegal dumping at a Coillte site in north Cork," a spokesperson said.
"Coillte operate an open forest policy and, as stewards of 10 forest parks and over 150 recreation sites, we are committed to ensuring that visitors can enjoy their visits to the parks and trails. Illegal dumping is an environmental hazard and an eyesore costing Coillte an estimated €500,000 annually to clean up," they added.
A garda source indicated that they are following a definite line of inquiry into the illegal dumping and have identified an individual of interest.
Gardai are awaiting technical results from the council about the nature of the mixture and will then interview the individual.
The council is the lead investigating agency for the EPA and the incident is being treated as a major priority.
Council sources admitted that the incident was very serious but not typical of the increasing amount of illegal dumping they normally deal with.
"Usually it is flying-tipping we are dealing with . . . people who can't or won't pay for refuse collection and insist on dumping their domestic rubbish in isolated fields or boreens," he added.
Under strict environmental regulations, blood and abattoir wash-off products must be disposed of in a regulated manner given their potential public health implications.
Blood cannot be sprayed on to land and must be injected to avoid public health and environmental issues such as insect and rodent infestations.