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More than 700 live investigations into illegal dumping in Northern Ireland

There are currently more than 700 live investigations being carried out by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency into illegal dumping

THERE are more than 700 active investigations ongoing into illegal dumping in Northern Ireland, involving an estimated half a million tonnes of waste.

The Environment Agency is currently overseeing 711 live investigations into sites across the north "on the basis of being deemed sufficiently serious to warrant further action and potential legal proceedings."

Since 2012, there have been 126 prosecutions through the courts for illegal dumping, while a further 32 defendants were either acquitted or the Public Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with their case.

Environment Minister Michelle McIlveen released the figures in response to an Assembly question from South Down UUP MLA Harold McKee.

Ms McIlveen said: "NIEA is not always in a position to estimate and record volumes of waste, as doing so would necessitate intrusive surveys that could, depending on the topography of the area and the nature of the infilled waste, risk further damage or contamination.

"On some occasions, such assessment is prevented by the nature of the offence, such as burning, or the movement of waste through a waste transfer station. However, officials estimate there to be approximately 560,000 tonnes of waste in the sites that are the subject of current investigation."

The minister said that most incidents reported during 2016 had occurred in the area covered by Mid-Ulster District Council, "closely followed" by Newry, Mourne and Down and Mid and East Antrim.

A report in 2014, commissioned after the NIEA discovered 516,000 tonnes of waste near the River Faughan in Mobouy, Derry, estimated that cleaning up illegal dumps could cost £250 million.

Former Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said in 2015: "Fly-tipping is often clandestine in nature and usually carried out in remote areas under the cover of darkness making detection of the act and the gathering of evidence extremely difficult."

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