Wicklow council has been ordered to remove up to 1.4m tonnes of contaminated soil – “everything” – from the site of the largest illegal dump discovered in the State to date.
The High Court also ruled adjacent soil, which the council says has been contaminated by the illegal dumping, must also be removed.
The council has estimated previously that the cost of removing all illegal waste from the site in Whitestown, near Baltinglass, would be about €35 million.
In a lengthy and continuing case involving the council and Brownfield Restoration (Ireland) Limited, owner of the site but not operator of the illegal dump, the council – and through it the taxpayer – has been left to foot the clean-up bill.
Estimates of the amount of waste dumped illegally at the site vary from 288,600 tonnes to 1.4 million tonnes. The council has estimated that a further million tonnes of soil at the site have been contaminated as a result.
All must now be removed, Mr Justice Richard Humphries directed on Friday in a 132-page judgment, and disposed of legally in a manner and location as yet unknown.
A partial remediation of the illegal dump, which the council carried out in 2014 at a cost of €3.9 million and which it claimed was done to the highest national and European standards, was described by Mr Justice Humphreys as “botched”.
The council did not put in a membrane to separate the illegal waste from the surrounding soil. The waste, 98% of which remains in situ and includes asbestos, is sitting in water and is on land that drains into a tributary of the Slaney river, which provides drinking water to homes in Carlow and Enniscorthy.
The illegal dump was operated from the 1980s until late 2001. Waste dumped included domestic and hospital waste, industrial waste brought there by private operators, and toxic tarmacadam road spoil and other waste left by the council.
What to do with 1.4 million tonnes of contaminated soil? Perhaps they will find another big hole and put it there!