Three farmers face massive clean up bill for illegal waste packed into bales of hay and machinery
Three farmers, a father and his two sons, face a clean up bill of £700,000 after illegal waste was found dumped on their lands near Magherafelt, Co. Derry, just over four years ago.
Sixty years old James Lagan, his sons Michael, 34 and Seamus, 33, all from Ballygrooby Road in Moneymore, all pleaded guilty at the Crown Court in Derry yesterday to illegally keeping controlled waste on their lands between April and September 2013.
The waste consisted of both commercial and domestic waste packed into bales of hay as well as end of life machinery and vehicles.
A barrister for the Public Prosecution Service told Judge Philip Babington that the waste was discovered both above and under ground by officials from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency who visited the farms on April 19, 2013.
The total weight of the waste materials found on the adjoining lands owned separately by the three defendants was just over 4,600 tons. The barrister said that so far the defendants had removed eighty tons of the waste material from their lands.
Barristers for the three defendants said there were no pollution incidents caused by the waste materials which had been illegally kept on the lands since approximately 2006 before the materials were found seven years later.
"Maybe it was a situation of out of sight out of mind", one of the barristers said.
"The family have an indelible link to the lands and an indelible responsibility to have it cleaned up", he said.
The court was told that the three co-defendants started cleaning up the waste materials, mainly the bales of hay kept behind a hedgerow, last August but because of the deterioration in the weather during a wet summer they had to stop the clean up operation in case disturbing the lands would worsen an already bad situation.
The prosecution barrister said it would now require the services of a qualified waste management and removal contractor to remove all of the waste materials and she said the cost of that had been estimated as being £700,000.
Judge Babington said the three co-defendants had created a mess.
"Keeping waste in the way they have done is a terrible blot on our lovely countryside", he said.
"It has to be stopped and in this case credit should be given to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency", Judge Babington added.
James Lagan was given a six month jail sentence, suspended for twelve months. His son Seamus was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years and his other son Michael received a twelve month jail sentence, also suspended for two years.
Judge Babington said he was postponing any confiscation hearing for three months to enable the defendants to continue with the clean up operation. He said he would take into consideration prevailing weather conditions in relation to any application to extend the three month postponement.
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