Taxpayer footing €2m clean-up bill for rubbish dumped in North
TAXPAYERS have been left to foot a bill of around €2m as work gets under way to remove thousands of tonnes of rubbish from the Republic illegally dumped at sites in the North.
But the total cost is expected to soar as it is estimated that some 250,000 tonnes of both household and commercial waste were illegally dumped at 20 sites in Northern Ireland between 2002 and 2004.
So far an agreement has been struck to deal with just 14,000 tonnes of mainly household waste at two sites in Slattinagh, Co Fermanagh, and near Trillick, Co Tyrone.
The Department of the Environment last night said it was not possible to estimate the total cost as it would depend on the volume and type of waste detected at the other 18 sites. It will also take several years to complete the clean-up operation.
Last June, the department and its Northern Ireland counterpart confirmed they had reached agreement in the debacle over who would pick up the tab for the rubbish repatriation.
Environment Minister John Gormley last night said it was a "legacy issue" relating to earlier this decade when there was "considerable illegal waste activity in both jurisdictions" after environmental enforcement legislation was strengthened.
"What we are now doing is facing up to our responsibilities as a state to bring the waste back for proper disposal," he added.
Under the agreement, both the costs of dumping the waste and 80pc of the costs of removing the waste from the sites will be funded by the Irish Government.
The framework agreement is expected to also be applied to the tens of thousands of tonnes of rotting rubbish at the 18 other locations.
Local authorities, environmental enforcement officers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the gardai are working to gather further evidence during the excavation to bring other cases before the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The EPA has already submitted a file to the DPP.
Around 5,000 tonnes of the waste and any contaminated soil will be transported in sealed haulage trucks to Ballynacarrick Landfill in Co Donegal for disposal.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has arranged the excavation, examination, removal of the waste and the clean-up of the two sites in question.
Dublin City Council, which also deals with shipments of waste over the Border, will oversee the agreed excavation work.
The clearance of the Slattinagh site is due to take three to four weeks, while work will then begin on the Trillick site.
Last night, the department highlighted a major crackdown on illegal dumping with the setting up of the Office of Environment Enforcement in October 2003.
In Northern Ireland, more than 70 of the prosecutions taken to date have involved waste from Ireland.
In four cases prison sentences were imposed on landowners permitting the illegal dumping of waste from the Republic. A number of cases are ongoing.