An unauthorised waste collector has been prosecuted by Nolan Farrell and Goff solicitors, instructed by Waterford Council, for the illegal collection and subsequent dumping of waste from a cliff near Annestown, Co Waterford in 2019. The dumping, first reported in July 2019, occurred in part of the UNESCO Copper Coast Geopark in an area with a Special Protection designation for birds. The clean-up operation, carried out by a specialist “working at heights” team, safely removed 3.2 tonnes of waste from the cliff top.
Enforcement actions against illegal waste activity are a matter for the local authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) within the Environmental Protection Agency. Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act, the Minister is precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by the Environmental Protection Agency or a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it, including enforcement functions.
The primary responsibility for the management of any waste, including costs for removal or disposal, lies with the holder of the waste, i.e. the natural or legal person in possession of the waste, or the producer of the waste.
At a sitting of Waterford District Court on Monday (November 22nd) the waste collector was sentenced to 6 months in jail, in addition to a €200 fine and €6,100 in costs. Prosecutions were also taken against the householder who gave their waste to the collector, as well as the waste collector themselves, who did not have a valid Waste Collection Permit. Waterford City and County Council subsequently dropped the prosecution of the householder as they provided information to secure the conviction of the Waste Collector.
In sentencing Judge Staunton described illegal dumping as a “scourge” and highlighted the efforts locals undertake to promote tourism, mentioning that dumping like this in a beauty spot undermines that public effort.
Speaking following the judgement Waterford City and County Council’s Senior Executive Engineer, Niall Kane said: “This case highlights the importance of the public checking to make sure a collector has a waste collection permit. Legitimate waste collectors must carry a copy of their waste collection permit and have their permit number on their vehicle. Collectors can be checked on NWCPO.ie to see if they have a permit. Remember it is an offence to give your waste to an unauthorised waste collector.”
The issue of illegal dumping is national. East Galway TD Sean Canney recently urged the Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan to speed up legislation to allow local authorities to use CCTV in detecting and prosecuting illegal dumping. In reply to a Parliamentary Question, the Minister confirmed that legislation is being drafted presently and the pre-legislative scrutiny process is well advanced.
The Galway TD also received confirmation that the Bill will include the use of a broad range of Audio Visual Recording (AVR) equipment in order to assist local authorities in their efforts to combat litter and illegal dumping.
“I have urged the Minister to fast track the legislation as litter and illegal dumping are a scourge on our landscape,” said Deputy Canney. “The cost of cleaning up litter and illegally dumped waste is enormous, and a severe crackdown is required. “Local Authorities have been hampered in their efforts over a number of years following a ruling by the Data Protection Commissioner.”
The Waste Management Act imposes a general duty of care on holders of waste, under which a person may not hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, environmental pollution. Penalties for serious dumping offences provided for under the Waste Management Acts are substantial. Persons who are found to be responsible for, or involved in, the unauthorised disposal of waste are liable to a maximum fine of €5,000 on summary conviction and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months, and to a maximum fine of €15 million on conviction on indictment and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years.
NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website www.nfg.ie, or email email@example.com.