A mountain of illegally stored tyres close to the Mournes poses a serious fire risk to the area, Environment Minister Edwin Poots has warned.
OM Recycling is being investigated by the Environmental Crime Unit after stockpiling hundreds of thousands of tyres outside the boundary of its licensed area at Chapel Hill in Mayobridge, the minister said in response to an Assembly question put by PJ Bradley MLA.
The company has now cleared all end-of-life tyres in excess of the licence conditions being stored outside its buildings after it received a notice, the Department of the Environment said.
OM Recycling said it was committed to recycling and the reuse of waste tyres but had moved into a new market that required large amounts of stock at short notice.
Its managing director, Gerard O'Malley, said the firm was committed to resolving any concerns raised and was “co-operating with all Northern Ireland Environment Agency departments”.
Mr Poots also warned: “There is a significant risk to human health and the environment due to the presence of a very large quantity, estimated at 400,000 tyres (3,200 tonnes) which are baled and currently stored on adjacent land which falls outside the licensed area.
“Should this stockpile catch fire, the effect on the local area is likely to be serious.”
Mr Poots said the company had been informed that the baling of tyres is not authorised by the current licence and the baled tyres stored on adjacent land must be removed as soon as possible.
The DoE said most of the waste tyres were being stored on an unauthorised areas outside the licensed area and this is being investigated by the Environmental Crime Unit.
“The company manufactures a 20mm wire free chip (Softread) primarily used in the equestrian market. Unfortunately, like many other businesses, the sharp economic downturn had a dramatic impact on the sale of this product within this market,” Mr O’Malley said.
“As a result of contractual agreements, OM Recycling were forced to look at alternative markets for recycled waste tyres. PAS 108 tyre bales were manufactured at this site with this in mind.
“Projects that utilise PAS 108 Tyre Bales, such as embankment building, landfill drainage and erosion projects, tend to require large amounts of bales in a short period of time.
“Hence it is necessary to maintain a level of stock prior to project commencement.”