Residents and EPA clash over pollution risk from Kerdiffstown dump

NAAS residents and the national environmental watchdog have clashed over the pollution risk posed by the waste facility at Kerdiffstown amid claims that the clean up bill could cost n30m.

About 80 people – more than the organisers expected – who attended a public meeting organised by environmental action group Clean Air Naas (CAN) last week heard of a litany of pollution threats linked with the site.

According to CAN claims, an estimated 50 million litres of "toxic leachate" is flowing into the ground each year - equivalent to the amount of raw sewage created by 100,000 people.

Sealed containers containing samples of the foul liquid were handed out at the meeting on Wednesday last, November 17, at Naas GAA.

Joe Friel of CAN predicted that because the dump is a former sand and gravel pit, the ground is porous and allows the leachate to drain into water tables. This, he warned, could lead to lead to pollution of water courses.

"Expect to hear about toxic items including asbestos, gypsum and even hospital waste from Dublin which was allegedly dumped at the site. Most of the waste in Kerdiffstown was dumped there in the past five years and came mainly from Dublin. It will take several decades for it to decompose," Mr. Friel told the meeting held at Naas GAA centre.

He added: "As it rots over the coming years the levels of explosive, noxious gases and toxic leachate will increase."

CAN has accused the Environmental Protection Agency of covering up the "the true facts" about the dump and not acting in the best public interest.

Mr. Friel cited an expert report on the site, conducted by a UK specialist company for the EPA, which indicated that leachate is migrating from one boundary of the site in the groundwater flowing beneath it.

The report also noted the presence of dangerously high levels of ammonia - up to five times the maximum permitted by the EU for drinking water purposes.

The report further highlighted a risk of contamination to the Morrell River because groundwater contaminated by leachate flows towards the waterway, which is about 40 metres from the dump boundary.

However, the EPA has robustly defended its role stating it has undertaken "robust enforcement proceedings" against the dump operators including three successful High Court actions, and the company is legally restrained from bringing any more waste to Kerdiffstown.

An EPA statement added that it is pursuing the companies involved and named directors, and a case against the directors remains before the High Court.

The EPA said the actions were taken because of concerns at the serious risk of environmental pollution.

"The EPA continues to be concerned in this regard and inspectors are continuing to regularly monitor the facility and surrounding environment. All regulatory options open to the agency are being actively pursued," the statement said.

The consultants report was prepared to assist the High Court actions and will be used in an upcoming case. It was also made available to the liquidator of Neiphin Trading, the company associated with A1 Waste and which operated the dump, to aid discussions with parties who had expressed an interest in acquiring the 50 acre site.

As well as pursuing actions through the High Court, the EPA also submitted a file to the DPP, who has responsibility for criminal cases, a year ago.

"The focus for the EPA is to bring those responsible for abandoning the site to justice and that the 'polluter pays' principle is implemented," the statement added.

Landfill gas and groundwater monitoring undertaken by the EPA have been made available to CAN and are available to the public.

Deputy Emmet Stagg told the meeting that money which has already collected through contributions to the landfill levy and the plastic bag tax would pay for the clean up many times over.

A long time resident of the area, Gus Fitzpatrick, said he could not open his bedroom window for four years because of the smell. He said he has made 500 calls and written three times to the EPA.

"We have had to live with this. I was born in this county over 70 years ago and I feel badly let down by Kildare County Council," Mr. Fitzpatrick adding that some buildings on the site were put up without planning permission.

Kildare County Council spokesman Charlie Talbot accepted that "some structures" were built without being the subject of permissions granted on foot of planning applications.

"Formal notices were served on the owner of these buildings with a view to assuring compliance with planning law. The owner responded to the notices with certain legal arguments which required consideration.

While this was in train, the EPA secured the closure of the site," he added.

He said any suggestion that there was no follow-up action, gives the impression that the planning enforcement aspect came to an end with the service of the notices but "that is not the case."


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