THE cost of cleaning up more than 13 illegal dumps across the country will be almost €250m, the Irish Independent has learnt.
More than €135m has been spent so far with another €100m to be paid to remove rubbish and decontaminate land at sites in Cork, Wicklow, Waterford, Limerick and Carlow before the end of next year.
The total cost of fixing the problem of illegal dumps will amount to €241m, and almost half the bill -- some €92m -- will arise from cleaning up the former Irish Steel site at Haulbowline in Co Cork.
The massive spend comes after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in 2005 that Ireland had broken environmental laws by not insisting that landfills were licensed, warning in 2010 that unless works to make the sites safe were carried out, daily fines would be imposed.
But a breakdown of the costs of complying with the judgment, seen by the Irish Independent, showed that local authorities will spend almost €90m cleaning up unlicensed landfills across the State, with the cost of remediating one of the biggest illegal dumpsites in the country, at Whitestown in Co Wicklow, running to almost €27m.
In some cases, the Department of the Environment has admitted, the State will be forced to foot the bill because the landowners who operated, or allowed the dumps to be operated have no money.
"Ireland has incurred considerable costs to date in dealing with the case," a report prepared for the Government said.
"Considerable additional costs will be incurred in bringing the case to a conclusion. Ireland guarantees that all sites will be remediated in the period 2011 and 2013 subject to statutory procedures.
"Criminal and civil proceedings have, or are, proceeding or are in place against almost all of the waste holders concerned and where it is not possible for holders of waste to remediate sites the State will step in and ensure that the court judgment is fully delivered."
The massive spend is needed to avoid Ireland being fined for failing to comply with EU law. It comes after a landmark judgment in April 2005 when the ECJ ruled that the State had infringed the Waste Framework Directive by "generally and persistently failing" to licence dump sites and ensure waste was properly disposed of.
The report said a programme of measures to comply with the judgment was only agreed by the Cabinet on April 24 last, 18 months after it was given a formal warning by the European Commission.
The ECJ was sharply critical of the government's failure to tackle the problem of illegal dumps, citing Whitestown, which had no waste removed for six years after it was first discovered in 2001.