Illegal dumps in north Belfast will be cleared by weekend with most dangerous material removed first, Edwin Poots says
The clearance of illegal dumps in north Belfast should be completed by the end of this week, the environment minister said.
The removal of waste which has attracted rats and flies will be the priority, Edwin Poots said.
He warned offenders they faced prosecution as he urged courts to impose heavy fines on those responsible for fly-tipping.
The minister said: "I would hope it will be moved a lot quicker.
"I believe they will respond quickly to the problem that exists there.
"Hopefully it will be done well before the end of the week."
Residents have left their homes due to large numbers of pests associated with the rubbish.
The sites are near the junction of Hillview Road/Crumlin Road and the Edenderry Industrial Estate.
Mr Poots said anecdotal evidence surrounded recent fly tipping while recycling centres were closed due to the pandemic.
He added: "There is a bit of the white van man scenario who has been doing tidying up around people's homes, bits and pieces involved in fly tipping.
"There may be some people who have set themselves up to handle waste whenever they are not registered waste handlers.
"Due process is what will bring results, by taking these people to court and having them fined and the costs charged to them for the disposal of any materials."
He told the Assembly some of the north's recycling centres were still not open.
"Get your act together.
"Get these recycling centres open and provide the service you are being paid to provide."
DUP Assembly member William Humphrey asked an urgent question at Stormont.
Mr Poots said: "There will be a robust response to this.
"What has happened is unacceptable.
"It is an illegal site and therefore the enforcement branch of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency will be tasked with carrying out all the investigations and bringing forward a recommendation to the Public Prosecution Service to take this matter to court on the basis of the information that they find."