Legal wranglings over illegal waste

Friends of the Earth has made a complaint to the European Commission on the failure by Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) to properly enforce waste laws. The complaint is the latest in a long line of similar actions taken by the group.

Northern Ireland's countryside has become a dumping ground. This is not nuisance fly-tipping but persistent, large-scale and organised disposal in sites which are neither licensed nor engineered to accept such waste. In fact, the illegal dumping trade has now become a very profitable one with waste coming from as far south as Waterford.

The case of the Craigmore Road landfill site in Garvagh, Co. Derry is unfortunately typical. The site was licensed to take builders rubble and plastic only but clinical waste and animal carcasses had been dumped in flagrant breach of the licence. Locals reported seeing waste carriers from the Republic of Ireland using the site on several occasions.

Local residents have been fighting to close the landfill site since it was taken over by Mr Malachy Higgins in 1996. Since then they have had to live with infestations of flies, sickening stench, ill-health and out of hours dumping. Mr Higgins' licence was finally revoked 7 years, and 100,000 tonnes of illegal waste, later.

Revoking the waste disposal licence, however, doesn't fully solve the problem. The site will continue to be an environmental and health threat for many decades unless the illegal waste is removed.

So far EHS has proved ineffective at halting this growing waste problem. Indeed, it has been unable to tell Friends of the Earth how many waste disposal licences have been issued. If it doesn't know something as basic as this, how can it hope to be an effective regulator?

The European route is a tried and tested one which has proved very successful in the past. Friends of the Earth will be pressing the Commission to take action on breaches of the Waste Framework Directive.

View the complaint (PDF† )