One decade on ... illegal waste to be repatriated to Republic of Ireland
Work has finally started on returning thousands of tonnes of illegally dumped waste to the Republic of Ireland –10 years after it was first discovered.
Around 2,000 tonnes of waste are to be dug up from a site near the village of Killadeas and repatriated to an authorised landfill site across the border.
Earlier in this financial year, 4,000 tonnes of waste were repatriated to the Republic from a site near Fivemiletown in Co Tyrone, and another 4,000 tonnes were returned from a site near Omagh.
The waste being repatriated from Killadeas is a mixture of biodegradable wastes, including food packaging, plastics, paper and low-grade medical waste.
In 2007, farmer Philip Johnston, who owned the land, was convicted and sentenced to four months' imprisonment for each of two waste charges. On appeal, this was reduced to two months in jail on each, to run concurrently.
Surgical gloves, incontinence pads and metals had been uncovered by a Environment and Heritage Service investigation in 2004.
An excavator was brought on to the farm by warrant and an estimated 1,900 tonnes of waste were found buried under pasture. Waste from premises in Cork, Dublin and Wexford was found.
Mr Johnston contested the two charges, his defence telling the court that waste paper was brought onto the land to provide bedding for livestock that had been quarantined.
Last night, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: "The continuation of work to remove and repatriate waste from these three sites this year further demonstrates our commitment to tackle illegal waste."
The process to remove the waste to the south is estimated to take up to five weeks to complete.
The Department of the Environment has defended the length of time taken to repatriate waste from the site.
"There were 15 sites and a quarter of a million tonnes to deal with. Also some sites are very difficult to access," a spokesman said.
"Furthermore, agreement from counterparts in the south to take the waste was required."
The waste repatriation work began in 2010.
The waste repatriation programme started in 2010, as a result of a Roadmap Agreement negotiated with the Republic and the European Commission to deal with the estimated 250,000 tonnes of illegally deposited waste at 15 sites. The agreement required the Republic to put in place tendering arrangements for landfill capacity and haulage of the waste. It was set up after Friends of the Earth complained to Europe.