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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 20:58 GMT
Illegal dumping sites tackled
Mike McKimm
BBC Northern Ireland environment correspondent

The growing level of illegal dumping into Northern Ireland from across the Irish border is to be tackled by a special team.

The Department of Environment, which aims to catch the people behind this practice, said it was uncovering up to two illegal sites in Northern Ireland each week.

Illegal dump site
DoE inspectors check one illegal dump site

It is believed there are dozens of illegal dump sites containing tens of thousands of tons of rotting rubbish from household bins and industry across Ireland.

The waste is bring brought into Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland and has made some of the criminals behind the practice into millionaires.

But some of the companies which are paid to take it to proper landfill sites in the south, simply take it across the border at night and dump it in fields and bogs.

It has been a growing problem for local councils which do not have the resources to deal with it, but until now neither they nor the Department of Environment realised the sheer scale of it.

Councils had their workers intimidated or beaten up if they tried to intervene or follow suspicious lorries.

The narrow twisting roads that wander back and forth across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are ideal for such a trade.

The driving force for all of this is the multi-million pound pay-off if the waste can be dumped secretly.

A 20-tonne load is worth about 2,500. The illegal dumps the DoE are starting to uncover are in the region of 5,000 tonnes.

The profits are so substantial that companies can even afford to ship the waste to Scotland and England where its dumped in privately owned landfill sites
Two of those dumps will make a corrupt waste contractor a millionaire in weeks.

In the Republic, a waste contractor is paid about 2,500 to remove a 20 ton load of waste.

The person who allows illegal dumping on his or her land will pocket 70 to 100.

The lorry driver pockets about 150 to 200 a trip.

So after costs, the dodgy dumpster is left with a hefty 2,200 profit - that is just one lorry in one drop.

So it is easy to see how that can add up. Four lorry loads a day will make someone 8,800 profit - that is half a million pounds in 12 weeks.

Steve Aston, head of Waste Management at the DoE said: "We are talking about the discovery of one to two new illegal landfills on a weekly basis."

But the DoE say the problem is set to get worse.

There is a crisis in the waste industry in the Republic.

Major councils have closed their landfill sites because they are full. They have no alternatives and admit to "exporting" their waste.

It has been estimated that this year there will be a million tonne shortfall in capacity and it is expected that much of that will go north across the border.

Forged documents

Not all the illegal waste that arrives in Northern Ireland is dumped in the countryside.

Tens of thousands of tonnes have been put into council-owned landfill by lorries bearing temporary northern number plates and using forged documents and number plates.

The trans-frontier shipment of waste without proper permits and documentation is illegal but the consequences, if caught, do not deter the criminals.

The profits are so substantial that companies can even afford to ship the waste to Scotland and England where it is dumped in privately owned landfill sites.

BBC NI's Mike McKimm:
"The dodgy dumpster is left with a hefty 2,200 profit"

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