Illegal waste site leaks 1.5m litres of polluted water

The site on the outskirts of Derry which has been investigated for illegal dumping. Picture Margaret McLaughlin �
The site on the outskirts of Derry which has been investigated for illegal dumping. Picture Margaret McLaughlin �

Around one and a half million litres of polluted water seeping from a festering mountain of illegally dumped rubbish has had to be removed.

The Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, Steven Agnew MLA, obtained the information about the volume of the polluted water leaking from the site after questioning Environment Minister Mark H Durkan on the subject. Mr Agnew said that it was especially worrying since the illegal dump is so close to where 50,000 people in Londonderry get their drinking water. “We are only now becoming aware of the impact on the health of the river. We still know nothing of the impact on human health”, he said.

The scale of the illegal dumping at a waste site at Mobouy Road in County Londonderry was revealed after an investigation by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

A subsequent report by former Welsh Environment Agency director Chris Mills, published in December 2013, outlined how there was over half a million tonnes of illegal waste discovered by Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) officers in an area stretching to almost 1.4km in and around a licensed Materials Recycling Facility. The cost of clearing up the pollution at the site is expecting to run into “tens of millions of pounds”, according to the Mills Report.

This week, Green MLA Steven Agnew wrote to the Minister this week to request “an update on the pollution of the tributary of the River Faughan Special Area of Conservation adjacent to Campsie Sand and Gravel”. The Green Party leader pointed to “recent signs of leachate, sewage fungus and other types of pollution visible in this stream and adjoining embankment.”

The Minister replied: “The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is taking a structured approach in dealing with the waste issues on the Mobouy Road site. In the past nine months, works at the site have focussed on removing waste materials from the City Waste Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) site and implementing immediate works to try and capture polluting liquids and leachate from reaching surrounding watercourses.”

He explained that “a significant volume of contaminated surface water” is being directed to a ‘cut-off drain’ before being removed through ‘tankering’ and treated at the local Wastewater Treatment Works.

The Minister continued: “To date 1,426,435 litres of leachate has been removed from the site. In addition, NIEA is undertaking environmental monitoring of the water quality in rivers upstream, in the middle of and downstream of the site, including the River Faughan.

“No significant pollution has been identified in the River Faughan. There has been some pollution in the local stream adjacent to the site, however a visual inspection by NIEA staff in April noted that this has receded.

“This may be due in part to the works undertaken to remove leachate or it may also be due to low levels of rainfall causing lower levels of infiltration at the site.

“NIEA will continue to monitor the water quality in the watercourses whilst developing both an extensive plan to clearly identify the risk of further leachate impacting on local environmental receptors and a management plan for resolving the issues in both the short and medium term.”