Northern Ireland Environment Agency checking tyre firms over bonfire threat
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has said it has carried out checks at tyre retailers to ensure tyres are not being put on bonfires.
The practice emerged after a Belfast City Council committee voted to remove tyres from two bonfires in Belfast.
A Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) spokesperson said the NIEA will not intervene to remove waste from bonfires, except in "exceptional circumstances" where it is agreed with councils as part of a multi-agency approach.
The spokesperson said the NIEA is committed to working with councils, the PSNI and Fire Service to address "imminent dangers of serious pollution of the environment".
"The NIEA therefore focuses its resources on working with waste producers to prevent the more environmentally damaging wastes such as tyres from finding their way into bonfires, and to that end, the NIEA have carried out visits to tyre retail sites to inspect that correct processes are in place for the secure storage and authorised disposal of waste tyres," they added.
“We also take enforcement action where we can obtain sufficient evidence of who has transported and deposited these type of wastes.
"This is frequently problematic, given the circumstances surrounding bonfires in Northern Ireland. Unless the perpetrators are observed ‘in the act’, culpability is often difficult to establish, and witnesses may understandably be reluctant to provide statements of evidence."
The spokesperson said the NIEA will not dismantle bonfires if consent from landowners has not been secured, where it would be contentious, or staff safety is put at risk.
“This year the NIEA have facilitated the collection of over 800 waste tyres from a bonfire site at Milner Street, Belfast on behalf of the City Council, and are currently engaged with other local councils to remove tyres from bonfire sites under council and community arrangement and consent," they added.
While the NIEA will not regularly take action to remove tyres from bonfires, contractors have in the past been employed to remove materials or dismantle pyres.
On Sunday, contractors hired by Belfast City Council removed 1,800 tyres from a bonfire on London Street in the city, accompanied by police.
Last July, Belfast City Council took the Department for Infrastructure to court to force it to intervene over the height of the Bloomfield Walkway bonfire which was on the department's land.
Contractors moved in to remove material to reduce its height after it was found to pose a "serious threat" to homes in the area.
But the material was set alight before the contractors could move on to the site.
SDLP group leader on Belfast City Council, Donal Lyons has said authorities should investigate the supply of tyres to bonfire builders.
“The removal of up to 1,800 tyres from a bonfire site at the weekend also raises serious questions about the supply of hazardous materials. The scale of the removal suggests a significant and organised supply of tyres," he said.
"The disposal of these materials is regulated by law and prohibits illegal handling. It’s important that the relevant authorities investigate this matter fully."
Belfast Telegraph Digital