A Wicklow businessman has been fined €1m for putting the drinking water in Blessington at risk of contamination by illegally dumping dry industrial waste on a site there.
John Healy (aged 67) a married father with three sons, owns Blessington Plant Hire and Blue Bins Ltd.
Mr Healy collected waste from local companies before dumping it over a four-year period on a small seven acre site called Dillon’s Down at the Roadstone (Dublin) Ltd site in Blessington.
Healy of Crosscool Harbour, Blessington pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to disposing of waste at Roadstone in a manner likely to cause environmental pollution and to disposing of it without a license under the Waste Management Act 1996 between January 1, 1997 and October 31, 2001.
Judge Katherine Delahunt said the court accepted that Healy had been "by no means" the only person involved in this widespread illegal dumping operation and that it had been acknowledged that his involvement was only over a small area of the site. She accepted that he had mainly dumped non-hazardous waste, but added that the site had been vulnerable to this.
Judge Delahunt said that the only reason Healy had engaged in this enterprise was for monetary gain and he had done so with disregard to the local environment. She added that this activity resulted in an entire site being remediated "at great expense".
Mr Donal O’Leary, who was employed as an Independent Environmental Consultant to assess the site, said he found "no engineered or probable natural barrier" between the waste and the groundwater. This ground water was the drinking water source for homes and businesses in Blessington and Mr O'Leary said he found contaminants in it which were in excess of standard drinking water guidelines.
He said the contaminants were consistent with what would have seeped from the waste dumped on the site.
Mr O'Leary accepted a suggestion from defence counsel, Mr Shane Murphy SC, that the risk he feared at the time "was happily not borne out" but added that it was reasonable for him to assume the risk at the time.
Detective Sergeant Gerry McGrath told prosecuting counsel, Mr Eanna Mulloy SC, that gardai received a complaint from Wicklow County Council in August 2001 after litter warden, Bill Ryan, thought it suspicious that a substantial amount of waste had been dumped at the Roadstone site.
Gardaí carried out an extensive search of materials dumped and were able to trace it back to various local companies - who, it later transpired, had all availed of the services of Blue Bins Ltd.
Mr Healy was questioned by gardaí and admitted to running Blue Bins, but denied any involvement in illegal dumping at the site until he made frank admissions a year later following five separate garda interviews.
Detective Sergeant McGrath said Mr Healy had denied responsibility at first because he was in fear of being associated with much publicised allegations in the local and national media at the time, in relation to dumping of hazardous hospital waste at the Roadstone site.
Mr Healy admitted that he never asked permission to dump the waste - which, he said, equated to be between 2,000 and 2,500 tonnes per year. He saw no harm in what he was doing because it was not hazardous material and he believed the amounts being dumped were relatively small.
Detective Sergeant McGrath described Mr Healy as a well-respected man in the local community, who had been in the waste management business since the early 1990s. He had a small number of road traffic convictions that had been dealt with in the District Court.
Detective Sergeant McGrath agreed with Mr Murphy that the site was open and many people had access to it. He also agreed that 12 out of 14 people, including senior staff at local councils, were interviewed by gardai during the investigation and later cautioned as they were also suspected of dumping illegally at the site.
McGrath accepted a suggestion from Mr Murphy that, prior to 1996, when it was not illegal to dump - "it was almost customary practice for people to deposit material on the land".
Mr Cecil Shine, a geologist and defence witness told Mr Murphy that he assessed the site and concluded that the dry industrial waste which Mr Healy claimed he dumped there would have had a "relatively low risk" of polluting the lands, plants, animals and water at the site - but, due to the fact that it was not natural material, it would have affected the soil.
Mr Murphy asked Judge Delahunt to accept that Mr Healy was not part of "an enormous commercial enterprise" - transporting vast amounts of waste from around the country and dumping it in Wicklow.
He said that Mr Healy showed remorse, embarrassment and shame for his actions - having led a blameless commercial life. Mr Healy had sold land and had set aside €300,000 to offer the court.