The Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan says a Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) investigation has found no evidence of recent landfilling at the WJ Chambers concrete site at Drumahoe.
The Minister made the claim in response to a query from the Green MLA Steven Agnew who raised the matter by way of a series of questions at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Green MLA asked the Minister “why the investigation into illegal landfilling at 91 Glenshane Road, Drumahoe was closed; and whether it is his Department’s position that illegal landfilling at the site ceased prior to 1992?”
Mr Durkan confirmed that the probe had closed because there was no evidence of recent landfilling at the Faughan side site.
The Minister stated: “The investigation carried out by the NIEA was closed because investigations of the site did not yield any evidence of the deposition of recent material or demonstrate the presence of significant quantities of the wastes – metal, plastic etc. – which had allegedly been deposited there.”
Mr Durkan went on to address the issue of the potential that landfilling might have taken place there in the past.
“As regards historic in-filling of the site; the Department has previously reviewed the planning history of the site and available aerial photographs, and is satisfied that any illegal landfilling that may have taken place would have been deposited prior to May 1992,” he said.
The Environment Minister said the fact that there was no evidence of any landfilling after 1992 meant that there would be no mechanism for taking enforcement action even if historic landfilling was uncovered.
“It is therefore immune from enforcement action because the infilling precedes the primary legislation used to regulate and enforce the management of waste in Northern Ireland,” he added.
The North Down MLA also asked the Minister for a definition of controlled waste and “why the landfilling which took place between August 16, 1995 and December 28, 2006 does not fall within that definition.”
Mr Durkan said: “Under the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, the primary legislation under which NIEA enforces waste-related activities, waste is regarded as ‘any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard.’ Controlled waste is defined as “household, industrial and commercial waste, or any such waste.”
Referring to Drumahoe the Minister stated: “As regards this specific matter, the origin of material used in the alleged infilling and site construction was deemed to have been generated from on-site workings and, as such, was not regarded as waste.”