Residents outraged at return of waste-dumping convoy
Residents of a private rural road in south Armagh are outraged at what they say is a highly organised waste dumping operation being carried out on land adjacent to their homes over the last two months.
The angry residents of Station Road in Jonesborough say the suspected illegal dumping has become a major cause for concern in recent weeks with the stench created by the dumped waste material – which has been arriving at the field in convoys of 10 to 20 trailer loads each day – leaving the locality “smelling like a landfill site.”
“Families here have been like prisoners in our own homes, unable to open windows or doors or allow our kids outside to play the smell is so bad,” a concerned mother who lives along the narrow country lane said.
“This recent hot weather has made the situation worse and we are plagued with swarms of flies. Lorries and tractor-trailers have been arriving in convoys each day to dump the waste material on the land and the drivers are rude and aggressive if tackled about it,” said the disgusted resident. Shockingly, neighbours claim one particular driver insists on relieving himself in full view of residents’ homes, in “an act of intimidation and defiance.”
As the situation came to a head on Thursday last during a visit to the site from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the local woman revealed that a similar waste dumping operation at the location was investigated by NIEA two years ago.
“The Council, NI Environment Agency (NIEA), the Rivers Agency and the PSNI were all involved in the investigation two years ago when the same thing was happening. Our narrow lane was besieged by trucks and tractors from 7am each day carrying waste to the fields,”
She claims landowner, Stephen Donald, who lives in Loughbrickland, fobbed off enquiries from residents as to the nature of the dumping in 2016, advising them it was compost material he was transporting to the land to enrich the soil.
“The situation was intolerable and only stopped after we residents alerted NIEA who carried out investigations at the site along with the Rivers Agency,” she added.
The dumping is said to have started again around eight weeks ago, with the convoy of trucks and tractors carrying waste to the site – which is nestled in south Armagh’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – on a daily basis.
“We are all highly concerned as to what’s going on here and about the potential health risks to ourselves and our children, not to mention the possible contamination of the land and the waterways. We want all agencies to come on board and help to stamp this out. We’ve had enough of living beside landfill. It is an unbearable situation and we can’t simply sit back and allow this to happen again,” the worried resident added.
Neighbours say NIEA agents witnessed the dumping of the material for themselves during their visit to the Station Road land on Thursday and they claim that a female NIEA agent was verbally abused by an aggressive lorry driver who objected to being questioned about his activities.
Having spoken extensively to concerned residents on Thursday, NIEA agents advised them that soil samples taken suggest the waste is “brown bin waste” which does not meet the required grade. The environmental body said further investigations will be carried out.
According to residents, the trucks returned on Friday, undeterred by the NIEA visit.
Local political representatives have slammed those responsible for the dumping and say Station Road dwellers are “at breaking point” over the situation.
Sinn Féin Councillor for the Slieve Gullion Area, Mickey Larkin urged “prompt and effective action from all the agencies involved” in order to end the dumping, while his colleague, Newry & Armagh MLA Megan Fearon, described the situation as “totally unacceptable and intolerable.”
“Local residents are at breaking point as rather than see their complaints and fears allayed they have watched them grow,” said Ms Fearon.
“The local community need to feel that all Agencies including, the NIEA, Newry Mourne & Down Council and the PSNI are taking their concerns seriously and working to address them. I will be liaising with all involved to ensure that this unsatisfactory situation will hopefully be brought to an end.”
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty, said he had been contacted by the Station Road residents “who are very concerned for their own health and for the health of their children.”
“It is outrageous to think that during the best spell of weather we have had in decades that parents would be reluctant to let their kids play outside because of health concerns related to the dumping of materials near their homes,” said Mr McNulty.
“I have written to the NIEA seeking immediate action to ensure there are no health risks to the local families and to ensure that the appropriate licences are in place to facilitate dumping large quantities of materials.”
An NIEA spokesperson confirmed the agency has received complaints of alleged waste disposal at the site in Jonesborough and that the matter is currently under investigation.
“As such no further comment can be made at this stage,” added the NIEA representative.
Police have not yet confirmed if any criminal investigation is being undertaken in relation to the matter.