Ballyogan Residents demand independent analysis of landfill following recent revelations
Seven years after they granted Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council a waste licence (August 2000) the EPA are finally having to take a closer look at what was buried at the Ballyogan Landfill.
‘Key residents' of the Ballyogan Liaison Group were contacted by RPS (Rural Planning Services) the company carrying out the excavation of 90,000 tonnes of waste on behalf of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown at Ballyogan Landfill.
Nicola Curry, spokesperson for the Ballyogan Environmental Group said in a statement, “An RPS representative said that waste material had been uncovered ‘that shouldn't have been there'. The company were attempting to analyse the material in a bid to decide what to do about it.
“We residents are angry that our calls for a full risk assessment and chemical analysis of what was going to be disturbed while the company excavated the dump were rejected out of hand.
“We urged RPS to properly assess the site using the model used by the EPA in America because it was impossible to say what was deposited in the ground during the first half of the life of the landfill.”
The EPA also considered the planned excavation work. RPS complied with requests from the EPA to meet with ‘key residents' to inform them regarding the excavation work. RPS were also required to make an assessment of where possible odours might settle within the surrounding areas if released. RPS opted to start the excavation works and deal with anything “unexpected” as they went along.
Nicola Curry commented, “The EPA did not request any chemical analysis of the waste being removed. They did not feel this was warranted given that the landfill ‘was not hazardous'. How do they know the landfill is not hazardous? Dun Laoghaire Rathdown told them!”
Senior engineers from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council have insisted for years that they knew exactly what was buried during the thirty years that the landfill accepted waste at the facility and that hospital waste had not been accepted at the facility.
Ms Curry continued, “The EPA granted a licence based on data it received from the council. The EPA did not cross check results or information regarding the landfill in the first decade or so of its operations. We believe this was a negligent approach by the EPA.”
However in the early nineties residents picketing the dump on another issue broke lines every day to ‘let the hospital waste in'.
As part of the licensing procedures Ballyogan Environment Group and a number of local residents, some of whom have lived in the area longer than the lifetime of landfill, made submissions to the EPA for a full risk assessment to be carried out on the facility.
They pointed out that in the absence of any firm data it was impossible to for the council or the EPA to state with any integrity what was buried or how toxic or otherwise the waste facility was. This was refused.
Nicola Curry said, “Ballyogan Environmental Group calls into question the current licensing process across Ireland, which appears to be effectively allowing applicants to rubber stamp their own facilities without any thorough checking by the protection agency.”
The Ballyogan facility has had a chequered history. To date the EPA has written to the council regarding 172 non compliances of its licence. One issue very pertinent to the current issue concerns illegal dumping at the facility.
In 2003 allegations of illegal dumping at night were investigated. Residents had reported seeing lorries working at the facility throughout the night with their lights turned off.
In an interview with The Wicklow Times a lorry driver told how he was instructed to give an official at the facility an envelope containing money.
The directors of a waste company admitted paying the council official £25,000 in return for unrestricted access to the dump to the extent that they were given their own key to the landfill. Council officials revealed that CCTV cameras placed at the facility following residents tip offs were of little help as they unfortunately did not contain any film, or were pointed in the wrong direction or had not been turned on etc.
Following Garda investigations A file was sent to the DPP regarding illegal dumping at the facility. Despite having a lot of evidence which included the frank of admission by company directors the DPP was unable to bring a court case and DLRCC still failed to investigate the matter any further.
What the issue did highlight however was how very little senior engineers knew about what was going on at, or into the facility, and how weak their claims to this effect were becoming. Residents argued that this was further evidence that Ballyogan was full of unclassified waste.
It is impossible to have peace of mind that it is safe to be living beside a landfill when no one has scientific proof that there is nothing harmful buried there. Particularly when there is anecdotal and scientific evidence (from outside Ireland) that landfills are dangerous and potentially harmful to health.
Former Environment Ministers Noel Dempsey and Dick Roche were very vocal about such hazards when they were pushing for incineration to go through.
Residents are calling on Minister John Gormley to intervene and have the excavations at the landfill stopped once and for all.
Clearly the time has come for a full scientific independent investigation of the Landfill at Ballyogan in order to secure peace of mind for residents. We are calling for the EPA who are duty bound to protect human health to instigate proceedings for a full and independent risk assessment of the landfill.
If RPS and DLRCC are confident that the waste facilities at Ballyogan pose no risk to human health then surely they should be leading the calls for scientific research in order to resolve the matter once and for all.
We don't want to be right we just want peace of mind.