FIREFIGHTERS have been unable to put out a major blaze at a dump, and pollution is now putting the health of more than 30,000 nearby residents at risk.
The fire in the core of the 50-acre Kerdiffstown dump near Naas, Co Kildare, could burn for months, it was revealed yesterday. The blaze is also causing environmental damage locally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said.
The HSE has been called in to monitor air quality polluted by the toxic smoke.
"The fire service cannot put it out, and it is not known when it can be put out," the agency said.
The dump, which no longer accepts waste, is less than a mile from thousands of homes at Kerdiffstown, Monread and Morell, housing estates in Naas and known locally as "the Monread triangle".
International experts are being consulted to see how the fire can be dealt with. Similar fires in dumps abroad have burnt for years.
The latest -- and most serious -- fire started in a pile of waste on Tuesday last week. It is classified as a 'below-surface fire', which mean firefighters are unable to extinguish it.
Effectively, the fire is burning in the core of a mountain of waste, and because no records were kept of what was allowed on to the landfill site by its former owners, it is impossible to speculate on what is actually causing the fire.
The EPA, in a statement yesterday, said its inspectors met with the Kildare County Fire Service yesterday "to plan for the ongoing emergency response to the fire".
The EPA said yesterday that 1.75 million tonnes of waste had been illegally deposited at the site before it was licenced in 2003 as a dump.
A recent damning report commissioned by the EPA has also warned about the prospect of a catastrophic explosion from gases.
Joe Friel, spokesman for the Clean Air Naas group, which is campaigning against the dump, said they were horrified at the potential health problems arising from the blaze.
"We were told that they cannot put this fire out. We have huge concerns," he added. "Lives are also at risk from an explosion. People are living nearby yet there are no facilities to flare off the gas."
The group appeared before the Dail Environment Committee yesterday outlining a litany of complaints and health fears over the dump.
It will cost more than €30m to clean up the landfill.