TAXPAYERS will foot a bill of up to €600,000 to dispose of 500 tonnes of hazardous material dumped in a disused quarry by fuel launderers.
he illegal dump was discovered at the quarry at Cavan Hill near Knockbridge
, Co Louth, two years ago.
However, the extent of the toxic sludge and other hazardous materials, and the cost to the State of its safe disposal, has only now become known.
A spokesman for Louth County Council, which is currently seeking a specialist contractor to remove and dispose of the material, revealed the final bill could run up to €600,000.
The Border county is often used as a dumping ground by fuel launderers and the council has spent in the region of €3m, over the last three years, cleaning up after the criminal gangs.
The material at Cavan Hill includes toxic sludge created as a by-product of the illegal laundering of marked diesel during which the green marker dye – added to identify it as for agricultural use – is stripped from the fuel. It also includes contaminated gravel and clay.
The scale of the removal operation dwarfs anything previously seen by Louth County Council, which disposed of a total of 600 tonnes of sludge during the whole of 2012.
"Within the site, we estimate there is approximately 1,600 cubic tonnes of material of which 500 cubic tonnes is estimated to be contaminated toxic material, most likely residue from fuel laundering," said a council spokesman.
The hazardous material was buried at the quarry over a period of time and sits alongside illegally dumped waste liquid which is potentially hazardous.
It is understood that criminal prosecutions are pending in relation to the illegal dumping of the hazardous materials.
The affected material will likely be shipped to Holland where it will be incinerated.
The spokesman said Louth County Council had recorded 68 incidents of illegal dumping of toxic sludge so far this year – the latest incident was discovered only yesterday.
In most cases, laundering gangs simply dump the toxic sludge at the side of the road in quantities ranging from 1,000 litres to 40,000 litres each time.
It currently costs around €800 to dispose of 1,000 litres of sludge.
"For each of the last three years we spent approximately €1m a year on the recovery and disposal of this toxic material," said the spokesman.
"To date all our costs have been reimbursed by the Department of the Environment. Still, this is costing the taxpayer, whether Louth County Council taxpayers or all taxpayers in the country through the department," he added.