Repatriation of 250,000 Tonnes of Illegal Waste From Northern Ireland Commences

The repatriation of waste which originated in the Republic of Ireland but which was illegally disposed of at about 20 sites in Northern Ireland in the early part of this decade is now underway. The repatriation process follows a 2007 Roadmap agreement between the two jurisdictions and a further framework agreement in June 2009 which agreed measures for dealing with sites containing waste from the Republic. The waste is being removed using powers contained in Article 24 of the EC Regulation on Shipments of Waste.

Removal of waste from the first site at Slattinagh, Garrison, County Fermanagh has started. It is estimated to contain around 4,500 tonnes of household-type waste from Cork and Wexford. When the waste at Slattinagh is removed, officials will then begin work on the second site, which is located near Trillick, County Tyrone and contains around 10,000 tonnes of waste.

The estimated timescale for the removal of the waste from the first site is three to four weeks. Following this, attention will turn to the second site. Under the agreement the costs of disposing of the waste will be met by the Irish Government together with 80% of the costs of removing the waste from Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland will contribute 20% of the costs of excavation, examination and removal of the waste and the remediation of the site.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Republic has formally approved the disposal of approximately 5,000 tonnes of waste at Ballynacarrick Landfill, County Donegal. Waste will be transferred Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4.30pm in covered and sealed haulage vehicles (30 tonne capacity) – eight vehicles in all will be used.

€34 Million Bill For Ireland

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) estimates that up to 250,000 tonnes of municipal and commercial waste from Ireland was illegally deposited at 20 sites in Northern Ireland between October 2002 and the end of 2004. An initial estimate of costs for the first two sites is in the region of Eur2m for Ireland. On this basis, the full cost of repatriation for Ireland would about Eur34.5m.

“We are dealing with the legacy from ten years ago, when illegal disposal of waste from the Republic was taking place on a large scale. It involved serious criminality with absolutely no regard to the impact on the environment, local communities or our economy,” says Northern Ireland Environment Minister Edwin Poots. “This operation will repatriate around 250,000 tonnes of illegally dumped waste. To put the scale of this operation in context Belfast, our largest District Council, produces less than 160,000 tonnes in one year.”

“What we are now doing is facing up to our responsibilities as a State to bring the waste back for proper disposal,” comments Irish Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD. “I welcome the beginning of the process of repatriation, which reflects a lot of hard work by the administrations on both sides of the border to deal comprehensively with this issue. It shows that cross border cooperation between the relevant agencies in both jurisdictions is essential to the protection of our environment, and the pursuit of environmental crime.”

A file has been submitted by the EPA to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and is currently being considered. Further evidence gathered during the excavation will be utilised, where possible, to bring other cases to the DPP.

Waste Enforcement Efforts

Waste enforcement efforts in Ireland have been stepped up significantly in recent years since the establishment of the Office of Environment Enforcement in October 2003. The OEE leads an Enforcement Network which coordinates enforcement in Ireland and over Eur7.4m is being provided to local authorities around the country to support continuing waste enforcement with some 120 waste enforcement officers on the ground. With the consolidation of the administration of Transfrontier Shipments of Waste to the National TFS Office (Dublin City Council) more targeted enforcement efforts in conjunction with NIEA have lead to a major reduction in illegal activity.

In Northern Ireland the NIEA is actively targeting those involved in illegal dumping via a dedicated Environmental Crime Team. Of the prosecutions taken to date, over 70 cases have involved waste from Ireland. This has resulted in a number of fines and, in four cases, prison sentences being imposed on landowners allowing Irish waste to be dumped on their land. Others cases are still ongoing.

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