Life

Sick and tyred of dumping

VALERIE ROBINSON'S

Illegal dumping is a growing problem in Ireland's forests and if you think because you don't frequent woodland that you are not affected by it, think again, writes Valerie Robinson

IF YOU'RE a regular visitor to Irish forests you'll know that fly-tipping and illegal dumping is a problem. If you're not then, you may believe it's not your problem. You'd be wrong.

Every year part of the cash you pay in taxes or rates is used to clean up other people's mess in our woodlands.

That money has to be diverted from other projects and services that could otherwise benefit you and your family. Illegal dumping is not a victimless crime and it should make us all very angry.

I've written before about finding broken bottles, cans and domestic rubbish in our forests.

A more recent phenomenon is car parts - twice in recent months a large number of car bumpers have been dumped in woodland near my home.

After the latest incident I spoke to a regional Coillte worker who told me that a load of 80 old tyres had also been dropped at a forest eight miles away.

He revealed that once the tyres are removed they will have to be transported to Co Donegal where they will be shredded and used to make the rubber surfaces found in playgrounds. Coillte owns over 445,000 hectares of land and describes illegal dumping as a "serious problem" while "dealing with it is a costly activity".

In a single clean-up last year, Meath County Council removed 10,000kg of rubbish from a woodland in Herbertstown, including domestic waste, oil cans, tyres, beds, mattresses, televisions, electric cookers, fridge, computers, dead animals, glass and cans.

The Northern Ireland Forest Service says the removal of illegal waste from its lands costs around £100,000 annually. "When dumped material is found in forests, action is taken to legally remove the waste substances as soon as reasonably possible after the incident happens. "This may also require co-ordination with either local Councils or the NIEA who both have responsibility for prosecuting offenders if their investigations provide evidence of individuals involved. "The costs involved in dealing with these types of negative incidents are a burden on the taxpayer and reduce resources available for more positive forest management practices," a Forest Service spokesperson says.

A service insider also reveals that officials are particularly disturbed by the fact that unscrupulous individuals are capable of dumping potentially lethal substances such as asbestos in woodlands.

In 2006 a quantity of asbestos, which is harmful if dust containing the fibre is inhaled, was discovered on a lane in a forest at Mullaghbawn, near Forkhill. Its removal was costly because it required special equipment to safeguard workers.

Even more worrying is the growing number of animal carcasses being dropped in forests around Ireland.

In May the rotting remains of at least four calves were discovered on Coillte property in north Cork.

During the same period, the Forest Service had to remove the remains of a cow and calf from the entrance to the Loughermore Forest near Limavady. The cow's left ear had been cut off to remove its identification tag.

At the time, the DoE warned that dumping animal carcasses posed a risk to health risk to people and livestock and was a criminal offence under the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) Regulations (NI) 2011.

Anyone convicted of breaching the legislation in the north faces a hefty fine and/or imprisonment.

The Republic-based Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association is now seeking a crackdown on illegal butchering after the recent discovery of six sets of cattle remains found dumped near Ravensdale Forest, close to the border in Co Louth. Investigators believe the carcasses may have come from an illegal meat-boning plant. The find coincides with new reports of escalating incidents of cattle rustling on both sides of the border.

Urban dwellers may wonder why they should care if carcasses and refuse get dumped in some forest somewhere.

As animal remains rot, fluids seep into the ground.

Similarly liquids from nappies, battery acid, chemicals, poisons, agricultural refuse and weed killers can slowly leach into the soil eventually making its way into ground water systems - and ground water eventually makes it way to your tap.

My Forest Service source said the public needed to become aware of the big picture, adding: "People should realise that dumping is not victimless. There is a cost to us all."

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