Miles and miles of electricity cable, manhole covers, lead sheeting and even a bronze statue together worth hundreds of thousands of pounds are finding their way onto unlicensed scrap yards in the North West, according to a top police officer tasked with dealing with the problem.
Inspector Roy Robinson, the main PSNI liaison officer with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), in the old G and F police districts, which make up Northern Ireland’s western flank, said hauliers are shipping the stuff in to scrap yards from across the border.
“I have worked on operations in Tyrone as well. We have waste coming from the South of Ireland,” he said.
“People are dumping it on large sites, where it is again seeping into the environment. Of course, our water, which is so precious to us, is coming from those sources. We should do anything we can to address that. Certainly, we have had unlicensed yards containing over three tons of Eircom cable that was taken from the South of Ireland,” he added.
Inspector Robinson advised members of the Stormont Environment Committee of the extent of the problem during a briefing just before Christmas.
He warned that his colleagues in the NIEA unfortunately do not have sufficient power to deal with the issue.
“We have to deal with the unlicensed locations. There are three in Tyrone at present. The regulations should be strengthened. There are unlicensed locations with large amounts of waste already on them.
“We have done a joint operation with the NIEA, but it has no powers of arrest. The environment agency in Holland has powers of arrest, but its Northern Ireland counterpart does not.”
He also added: “The three illegal sites in Tyrone are being jointly investigated at present.
“There is a huge amount of plastic and metal swarf there - all those materials. A haulier obviously got a contract somewhere in the Republic of Ireland, took the material across the border and dumped it illegally. Those are also issues that we have.”
The top police officer said stolen lead, electric cables and even statues are ending up on some sites.
“I can think of one incident when a scrap yard that was not registered made us aware of a large bronze statue that had been cut down in Ballyshannon and had been taken to their yard. We were made aware of it and recovered it. It was worth over £60,000,” he said.
He also quipped: “Some of these criminals believe in a lead-free environment: they will simply strip the lead off your roof and take it straight to a scrapyard.”