Role of council officials in Wicklow dumping case ‘missing’

Wicklow County Council being sued for failing to remediate site of illegal dump

The site at Whitestown, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, owned by Brownfield Restoration Ltd. Photograph: Joe St Leger

The site at Whitestown, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, owned by Brownfield Restoration Ltd. Photograph: Joe St Leger

 

The legal action between Brownfield Restoration Ltd and Wicklow County Council heard on Friday that in earlier proceedings taken against illegal dumpers, the roles played by middle management officials in the council was “missing”.

Peter Bland SC, for Brownfield, which is suing Wicklow County Council over the council’s alleged failure to properly remediate the site of an illegal dump in west Wicklow now owned by the company, yesterday recounted affidavits and testimony given in 2009 during prosecutions of various illegal dumpers, as well as statements to gardaí.

The council had been using the illegal dump since 1979, said Mr Bland, a fact that was known to lorry drivers and their overseers, but also to area engineers and the county engineer, described by Mr Bland as the official “who stands between the area engineers and the director of services”.

Tarmac road surface

BlessingtonBaltinglassWhitestownEddie Sheehy

In recounting the role of various officials, and their level of knowledge, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys interjected with Mr Bland to comment: “There seems to be a level in the hierarchy that’s missing there. Why would that be?”

Mr Bland didn’t respond directly but noted that in the 2009 proceedings, “the only affidavits before the court . . . from Wicklow County Council, responding to the allegations for Wicklow County Council’s responsibility for dumping in the site from 1979 to the very day that [council official] Sonia Dean attended on site on November 23rd, 2001”, were from what he described as “two unfortunate drivers” who delivered waste to the site on behalf of the council and directed by overseers.

Records

“One would have thought that the waste management authority would be scrupulous to ensure that anything that it contributed to in dumping at Whitestown would be fully investigated and all such waste would be removed,” said Mr Bland.

He said there was no evidence that the director of services or the county manager directed that dumping take place at Whitestown.

“But,” said Mr Bland, “if not by act, by omission they allowed a policy to proceed whereby, throughout the county, nobody applied their mind, at management level, as to what was happening to waste generated by large-scale road works. That is a question that should have been addressed . . . that waste was not being dumped in illegal dumps throughout the county.”

The policy was to dump in quarries “throughout the county”, said Mr Bland, and “the council can’t walk away from it”.

The case was adjourned until Tuesday when Mr Sheehy is due to be questioned.