Sunday 22 July 2018

New crew as part of litter crackdown

Recent dumping at the back of St Senan’s Hospital
Recent dumping at the back of St Senan’s Hospital

Pádraig Byrne

Council officials may be able to call to people's homes and ask them to prove how they dispose of their rubbish as part of Wexford County Council's crackdown on littering and illegal dumping across the county.

Gerry Forde of the Environment Department outlined to a meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council how the council's new Rapid Response Crew will operate under a completely new structure, with a two person team in each town getting to know dumping black-spots and working closely with the members to stamp out what is a growing problem in the district.

Mr Forde also said that new litter by-laws will allow crew members to call to people's homes and ask for proof of how they dispose of their rubbish, and they will also carry out covert operations and use CCTV to catch dumpers. He said that litter costs Wexford County Council €2.8million every year, with 218 fixed penalty notices issued, 59 cases brought before the District Court and 27 successful prosecutions last year under the Litter Act.

While members were keen for those responsible for illegal dumping to be named and shamed, Mr Forde said that the Data Protection Commissioner had ruled that the council cannot publish a list of names, but he said it may be possible to share a link to press coverage of court cases involving illegal dumping.

Cllr Keith Doyle said that the council should be able to publish photos of offenders with a view to identifying them and also suggested signs should be erected in areas where people have been caught dumping on CCTV cameras. Mr Forde said the second point was something they were looking into at bottle banks in particular.

All members seemed to be in agreeance that the €2 charge imposed at bring centres was a retrograde step and Cllr Paddy Kavanagh said that prosecuting people who left a box at the bottle-bank while doing their recycling was 'over-zealous'. He said that, meanwhile, it felt like the big offenders were getting away scot free.

'There are whole van and trailer loads being left by these people that I'm telling you about and they seem to be immune to prosecution,' he said. 'We need to be tackling the big rubbish dumpers rather than people making a genuine mistake.'

The issue of members of the public having to give evidence in court was also raised, and Mr Forde said that while, sometimes it is necessary and can be a problem, people should let the council crews attend the scenes and gather evidence and that way they'll be the ones to go to court.

Cllr Barbara Anne Murphy said that the 'countryside was destroyed and it's getting worse', while Cllr Oliver Walsh said that he feared the council was 'fighting a losing battle' and that the new Rapid Response Crew would 'become a service for people dumping'.

'It's great to get this zero tolerance message out there,' said Cllr John O'Rourke. 'It has to get out there that we mean business.'

Chairman Cllr Keith Doyle then added that Halloween was a particular problem each year and there would need to be a big effort in the build-up, as people use it as an excuse for dumping.'We know where they're going to be,' he said. 'Some of the green areas in some of the estates never get the chance to recover. Some of them were burning for a week!'

While members were hopeful in relation to the new measures, they didn't seem overly optimistic.

Enniscorthy Guardian