€10m crackdown on illegal waste dumping
An estimated 60 tonnes of waste is illegally dumped in Ireland every day. The revelation came as senior local authority and environmental protection officials admitted that illegal dumping now poses a serious threat to the environment, farming sector and tourism industries.
Community groups hit by illegal dumping fear that the increase is linked to many waste disposal companies switching to a pay-by-weight system - with some unscrupulous business operators and householders unwilling to pay the additional fees.
To combat the threat, more than €10m is now being committed to a 'get tough' crackdown on offenders by councils and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - with new resources including infra-red cameras, drones, satellite imagery and even DNA genetic testing being deployed.
Environment Minister Denis Naughten admitted that fly-tipping and illegal dumping was now a matter of "very serious concern" in rural areas.
"We need to use whatever resources are available to tackle this problem," he said. "The use of smart technology, I believe, will help to put us one step ahead of people who insist on illegally dumping and threatening our environment."
Mr Naughten vowed that anyone caught fly-tipping or illegally dumping would "be prosecuted for blighting our countryside and roads with filth".
The Government intervention came amid concerns that, despite repeated crackdowns, the majority of illegal dumpers are escaping prosecution.
Nine-out-of-ten complaints to local authorities in 2015 related to waste issues.
In 2015, local councils got a total of 58,707 environmental complaints - with 52,052 of these involving waste issues ranging from fly-tipping to illegal dumping.
The EPA acknowledged it is acutely aware of concerns surrounding illegal dumping.
It confirmed that, between 2014 and 2015, major efforts were made to increase enforcement and detection rates.
In 2014, a total of 6,466 inspections were carried out - that soared to 14,823 in 2015.
Similarly, the number of anti-litter patrols grew from 38,829 in 2014 to 58,337 in 2015.
"Based on enforcement activity data reported to the EPA by local authorities, it is clear local authorities devote significant resources to the area of waste and illegal dumping inspections and enforcement activities," an EPA official insisted.
However, illegal dumping - sometimes on an industrial scale - continues to plague both urban and rural areas.
Some dumpers have been so brazen as to dispose of waste in our most famous beauty spots. In January, it emerged dumpers had been exploiting a ravine near Mangerton in Co Kerry for the disposal of domestic waste.
Last year, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) lodged a formal complaint to the EPA and Donegal County Council over the dumping of construction waste including asbestos material in the Glenveagh National Park.
IWT officials were appalled when they were alerted to the illegal dumping at two sites at the famous national park.
"A large quantity of builder's rubble was found in a small woodland. In another location, what we believe to be asbestos was found along a bog track," an IWT spokesperson said.
The problem is particularly problematic for local councils along the Border with the North.
Illegal dumping has been conducted in an organised way in some areas with fears gangs based in the Republic dump in Northern Ireland while gangs in the North dispose of waste in remote spots along the Border in the Republic.
The problem is drastically exacerbated by the dumped residues from fuel-laundering.