The Environment Minister Michelle McIlveen says the clean-up of the massive illegal dump on the Mobuoy Road could cost as much as £140 million but has indicated that a decision on how to proceed will only take place when a full remediation report is made available at the end of this year.
The new Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs says her first priority is protecting the River Faughan and a public water supply downstream of the dump that meets 60 per cent of Londonderry’s annual water need.
Asked by her immediate predecessor Mark H Durkan “to provide an update on...the illegal ‘super dump’ at Mobuoy Road” she said protecting the Faughan and public health was her main concern.
“Of most concern is the protection of the River Faughan, which forms the western boundary of the site and is designated as an area of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation,” she said.
“The key priorities for the Department are to protect the water quality and the public water supply in the river and to ensure that any site clean-up provides value for money.
“The size and complexity of the Mobuoy waste site means that its remediation will not be a quick fix.
“Three feasible remediation options have been shortlisted, namely excavation and disposal, containment and on-site treatment, with preliminary costs ranging from £20 million to £140 million.
“Work is ongoing to detail the options further, and I expect a full report of the remediation options for my consideration in December 2016.
“In the meantime, I have tasked my officials to ensure short-term measures are in place to protect the environment and human health,” she said.
The most expensive option for the department and the people of Northern Ireland will be digging up the waste and disposing of it elsewhere. The cheapest option will be on-site containment.
The Minister says £400,000 has been secured for a competition for small businesses to come up with innovative ways of cleaning-up the dump.
The outcomes of the competition are not yet known but ideas could including planting trees and plants on the dump (phytoremediation) and letting nature do its work, as has been implemented at the Bay Road Park to great effect. Using friendly creatures (bioremediation) would be another potential option.
Ms McIlveen said: “The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has been successful in securing £400,000 to launch phase 1 of a small business research initiative (SBRI) competition, in partnership with Innovate UK, to stimulate the development of innovative remediation treatments for waste illegally deposited at Mobuoy Road and mitigation of its impact on the surrounding environment.
“The project has received £400,000 from the Northern Ireland Executive’s pilot SBRI challenge fund.
“The outcomes of the competition will further inform the remediation strategy for the Mobuoy site.”
She also ruled out a public inquiry while criminal proceedings into the dump were still ongoing.
“The previous Executive did consider suggestions for a public inquiry, but, due to those ongoing actions highlighted, the undefined resource implications did not conclude agreement on a public inquiry before the end of the last mandate.
“As far as I understand, those reasons still stand. I would need to see the outworkings of the criminal proceedings before we would make any decision,” she said.