Up to 120,000 truck visits required ‘to clear illegal dump’
Wicklow County Council insists it needs permissions before it can take action on the site
Wicklow County Council has said it will take six-and-a-half years to clear the illegal dump at Whitestown.
A 20-tonne truck would have to visit a Co Wicklow site holding up to 2.4 million tonnes of illegally dumped waste and contaminated soil about 120,000 times in order to remove it all, the High Court has heard.
The Environmental Protection Agency has taken issue with Wicklow County Council’s insistence that it must obtain a series of permissions before it can do anything about the State’s largest illegal dump at Whitestown near Baltinglass.
The site contains between 288,000 tonnes and 1.4 million tonnes of illegal waste, including domestic and hospital waste, and approximately one million tonnes of consequently contaminated soil.
The High Court has told the council that it must remove everything and then infill and landscape the site, a former sandpit now owned by Brownfield Restoration (Ireland) limited.
The council says this will take six-and-a-half years, allowing for tendering and procurement processes, and obtaining a waste removal licence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) such a licence application would require.
But the barrister acting for Brownfield, Peter Bland SC, argued this was akin to a person, told by a court to demolish a property they build illegally, suggesting in response that they could do nothing until they had obtained planning permission to knock it down.
In court on Thursday, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys referred to the “astronomical” number of truck visits to the site that will be required to empty it.
A solicitor for the EPA, Alan Doyle, said he did not believe a waste licence would not be necessary to give effect to a judgment, delivered by Mr Justice Humphreys last Friday, ordering the council to remediate the site fully within three years .
“Normally for removal [of illegally dumped waste], and whatever is associated with the removal, I don’t believe a licence should be required because it just slows down the remediation and runs contrary to the objectives of the [waste management] directive and European law,” he told Mr Justice Humphreys.
Mr Doyle said he would prefer if the judge simply made an order giving effect to his judgment that the site must be cleared. He said the EPA could offer the council assistance by way of advice.
Mr Bland also took issue with the council’s indicative timetable of six-and-a-half years. He said that all material could be removed from the site “in a year” and he had not been challenged by the council when making that assertion, he added.
“It is practical, feasible and could be done,” said Mr Bland.
He argued that an order of the High Court trumped the processes and procedures of other state agencies. It would set a very bad precedent, he suggested, if a court order could be “somehow potentially undermined, or made conditional to the processes and determinations of other bodies, when the court of course has exclusive jurisdiction”.
“If something of this scale, with this degree of risk and current pollution,” Mr Bland said of Whitestown, “could be seen as allowing for a delay of three years before works commence and six years before they are complete, well, that’s something that every transgressor will grab hold of and seek to rely on.”