A mother has described taking her family to live in a caravan after a huge rubbish pile in north Belfast led to an infestation of pests.
The clearing operation of the illegal waste dump in north Belfast has begun after weeks of complaints.
Residents who say they have been plagued by rats and flies staged a protest outside Edenderry Mill on the Crumlin Road on Monday morning.
A warehouse in the industrial estate resembled a landfill site with huge mountains of rubbish inside.
One woman told the Belfast Telegraph she had to move into a caravan with her four young children and her dog as flies have made staying at home unbearable.
Ashlea Dunn (31) said: "It got to the point that I couldn't stay. We left our house on Monday morning and flies were landing on my phone screen, they're all over the kitchen counter and window ledges.
"I have four kids and a dog who was being swarmed by flies all day.
"I would rather be in a small caravan with four kids fighting all day than being stuck in a house and not being able to eat your dinner."
Alison Cosby (54) added: "The flies have been the big problem for us. I have breathing problems and I can't open the window.
"I'm taping nets around the window to get some air in, and I can't cook because fly bottles are overflowing.
"We have sticky paper all around the house and we can't sleep at night because they're buzzing around you."
Addressing those responsible, she said: "It looks like they've no shame, they haven't put out any statement or apologised.
"People are just at the end of their tether."
James Patton (65) lives nearby on Tennant Street.
"My concern is that this dumping has gone on too long," he said.
"I know three residents who have moved out to live in a caravan because of the plague of flies we're having, and the rats are everywhere."
He said he was most worried about a primary school and a football pitch adjacent to the dump.
"That will probably keep the kids away and stop them enjoying themselves. We've been on to politicians and everybody to sort it out, something needs to be done."
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has since confirmed that the landowners of Edenderry Mill have appointed a contractor to clear the site in full with the work to start immediately.
Officials will also inspect another site of suspected illegal dumping at a nearby petrol station.
Shortly after 11am on Monday, protesters walked past the security barrier at Edenderry Mill to confront those responsible directly.
A large truck blocked the entrance to the warehouse unit, where one employee attempted to defuse the situation.
Although the business owner was not present, several protesters called on him to face them and explain why things had been allowed to continue for so long.
When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, the business owner said he did not want to comment further at this stage as he feared for his safety.
Following the protest, the NIEA confirmed that work would be beginning to clear the site.
It added that the business owner had no permit or authorisation for waste activity, that it had been an illegal operation throughout with none of the necessary safeguards in place.
A statutory notice had been served earlier this month to remove the waste, with the principal that the polluter should pay but there was no signs of compliance.
DUP councillor Brian Kingston said he welcomed the development and that his party colleague, Environment Minister Edwin Poots, had made a commitment to making sure progress is being made.
Sinn Fein's MP for North Belfast, John Finucane, said: "That this situation was capable of happening is disgraceful.
"I have been in contact with all relevant agencies pressing for an urgent response.
"We need this area cleared, perpetrators identified and prosecuted and a guarantee that it can never happen again."
Speaking earlier at the protest, Mr Kingston said the sheer volume of rubbish was "astounding". "It's just 20 yards away from pensioners' bungalows, youth football facilities, a primary school," he said.
"We've been inundated with complaints about rats and flies, but it's no surprise to me that the residents have had enough."
He added that NIEA was building a case for prosecution against the polluter.
Green Party councillor Mal O'Hara said residents had endured "harrowing" conditions and questioned how the illegal dump had been allowed to develop unchecked for weeks.