The Department of the Environment (DoE) is investigating allegations mixed rubbish, potentially originating from local Councils’ waste streams, is being illegally spread on farmers’ fields, the Sentinel has learned.
The revelation that the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is investigating allegations that agricultural land is being used as a dumping ground for metal, wood, plastic and other waste materials disguised amidst compost, comes over three years after it was discovered waste was being buried in huge quantities in a Faughanside dump on the outskirts of Londonderry.
Green MLA Steven Agnew told the Sentinel: “The treatment of waste is subject to regulations, which are in place to ensure that it is disposed of correctly.
“As I understand it, a Council can act as a broker in making sure that waste is managed appropriately and, as such, they have a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to ensure that any third party involved is authorised to deal with and dispose of waste safely.
“I would be concerned if contaminated waste was somehow making its way into the environment, for example by being spread on fields or in landfill, as this could potentially be detrimental to local ecosystems and the agri-rural environment.
“Illegal disposal of waste in Northern Ireland is a major problem and that this seems to be another indication of how strong enforcement of regulation is needed.”
The DoE confirmed it’s investigating the matter.
“The Department’s Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is aware of, and is currently investigating, allegations of waste being spread onto fields,” it stated.
“Information relating to these investigations cannot be released, at this time, as it falls within the terms of exception under Regulation 12 (5) (b) - the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an enquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature.
“These investigations are currently ongoing and, once completed, would clearly form a central part of evidence in the investigation.”
The DoE said the NIEA has no current authorisations for the spreading of ‘off-spec compost.’
“Whilst several licensed composters are producing PAS 100 material, which may be spread to land this requires no further authorisation from NIEA and therefore information regarding locations is not held. Furthermore ‘Green Waste’ which meets the Quality Protocol (QP) is considered to be outside the waste regulatory system.
“Compliance with the QP is monitored by a company called Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd. (REAL), through its Compost Certification Scheme and not by NIEA.
“REAL should report any illegal activity to NIEA.”