State faces bill of up to €35m for illegal dumping in North
The Government is facing a bill of up to €35m for cleaning up illegal dumps of waste from the Republic in the North.
Environment Minister John Gormley has agreed to pay €3m to the Northern Executive to compensate local authorities across the border for the cost of tackling the environmental damage involved in two secret and illegal dumps of waste from the Republic.
But another 20 illegal dumps full of smuggled rubbish from across the border have been identified in the North -- leaving this jurisdiction with a monster bill for the secret traffic.
Under a deal with Stormont, the Government here will accept 80pc of the cost of restoring the lands involved and disposing of the material properly.
DUP MLA Sammy Wilson said the North was accepting 20pc of the cost because there was evidence that some landowners had accepted illegal tipping onto their land.
Now the Department of the Environment here is hoping it can reclaim some of the looming bill through prosecuting some sources of the garbage. It is believed a portion of the dumped material may be capable of being traced to its point of origin.
"We have to pursue those responsible because environmental crime costs the State," Mr Gormley said. "The individuals involved have to be brought to justice."
Up to a quarter of a million tons of trash is believed to have been brought across the border from 2002 to 2004, although authorities are now said to be satisfied that organised tipping in the adjoining jurisdiction has been largely stamped out.
Investigators from Northern Ireland's Environment Agency (NIEA) detected 22 sites of illegal dumping and believe there may be one or two others undiscovered.
Anne Blacker of the NIEA said dumps had been found in all six counties. Fines and convictions had been obtained in four cases, she said, and another 70 prosecutions were under consideration.
Some of the dumped documentary material is believed to have been shredded in order to frustrate investigation. But much of it consists of rubble, consistent with the Celtic Tiger building spree.
"The important thing for us was to try to get this rubbish dealt with," Mr Wilson said.
"It was already beginning to cause problems, with seepage into water courses.
"The bulk of the responsibility lies with the Irish Republic."
Mr Gormley said the Government was prepared to face up to its responsibilities under the "polluter pays" principle. But he warned that every effort would be made to track those responsible and to recover the cost from them.