TREES and shrubs in an Irish forest are dying after the illegal dumping of an estimated 50,000 gallons of blood waste from a meat plant or abbatoir.
Residents of Ballynoe, Co Cork, have expressed fears that the level of dumping was 10 times greater than first suspected.
Resident, Patrick Galvin, said people were "very worried" to see shrubs and trees starting to die in the forest which is between Fermoy, in Co Cork, and Tallow, in Co Waterford. "It is terrible to see such damage being done to a beautiful wood," he said.
Another local, who asked not to be named, said the level of dumping is vastly higher than first suspected.
"One man saw five loads being brought into the forest in just one day but he didn't know what was going on," he said. "Each of those loads involved about 2,250 gallons of this blood sludge.
"We've been told that the blood waste hasn't gotten into any water sources but we find that hard to believe because some of the stuff was dumped just 40 metres from a local stream."
The illegal dumping took place over a matter of weeks - and the amount of waste involved is roughly 10 times greater than initially feared.
"Even after the clean-up operation here the smell in the forest is absolutely appalling…it is like dead bodies are buried in there," one man said.
Local environmental fears have heightened after walkers noticed that trees and shrubs in the area are now dying.
Three major bodies - the Garda, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Cork Co Council - are investigating precisely how many tonnes of foul-smelling blood and animal waste was dumped at night in the forest.
Council officials visited the forest yesterday to examine the dying plants.
The Irish Independent, which revealed the illegal dumping, has learned that a definite line of inquiry is being followed.
The forest, which is owned by Coillte, was apparently chosen for the illegal dumping because of its remote location.
It is believed the man used a powerful tractor and a large agricultural sprayer to dispose of the mixture, which involved animal blood and animal waste sludge.
Council officials and gardai are now satisfied that the material originated at an abbatoir or meat plant.
Coillte admitted it was horrified by the revelations and confirmed they are working with the EPA, Cork Co Council and gardai.