Landowners may incur costs for removal of dumped fuel waste

January 12, 2015

Farmers and owners of land on which fuel launderers have illegally dumped toxic sludge may soon have to foot the bill for its removal after the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) signaled its intention to cease assisting in the removal of such waste.

According to Sinn Fein councillor, Terry Hearty, costs associated with removing a cube of laundered diesel waste range from £600 to £700 and, with the practice rife in some areas of south Armagh, local landowners could face being charged thousands of pounds in clean-up fees.

“Local farmers and landowners have their lands used as dumping grounds by those involved in this poisonous activity. These gangs care nothing about our local communities or the health and well being of our local people. Now the DOE and Councils want to add further insult to injury by hitting innocent landowners with bills of thousands of pounds to remove toxic waste,” Councillor Hearty said.

Condemning the practice of fuel laundering as a whole, Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan says he has written to Environment Minister, Mark Durkan, seeking a full explanation of “the rationale behind his department’s decision to abandon previously made agreements to financially support District Councils in the removal of this toxic residue”.

“For Minister Durkan to attempt to simply have the Department of the Environment wash its hands of this issue at the expense of local farmers, is wrong and unacceptable. Landowners should not be held responsible and have to pay for the criminal acts of others against the environment, community and economy.

It is bad enough the diesel gangsters compromising them and their land, but for them to now be abandoned by the Department of the Environment and forced   to potentially face bills of thousands of pounds is further insult,” he said.

Armagh Sinn Féin Councillor Darren NcNally penalizing landowners is not the answer and called for an “effective and sustainable solution” against fuel laundering to be agreed and implemented.

“Penalties against these criminal gangs and those who distribute the illegal fuel need to be increased. More resources should be provided to the Garda and PSNI and the Irish government and Executive should urgently review how they can maximise co-operation between policing, customs, justice and environmental agencies,” he said.

Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor criticised the NIEA on its “indicated change in position”, saying the move is “completely unacceptable and only served to place further burden on the already hard pressed ratepayer with local Councils being forced to take on the significant cost associated with removing fuel waste”.

Councillor Taylor says the action is “another cynical ploy by Central Government to place further costs on local government and only serves to highlight the folly of the Review of Public Administration which instead of delivering efficient services for local communities, is in fact placing untold additional costs on ratepayers”.

He confirmed Newry & Mourne District Council would be seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister of the Environment and OFMDFM with regard to this issue and to request that the proposed change in position of the NIEA be immediately reviewed.