A LEGAL action to determine who is responsible for the costs of restoring lands in west Co Wicklow on which large quantities of untreated hospital and other hazardous waste were dumped has opened before the High Court.
Wicklow County Council has claimed the dumping caused, and continues to cause, environmental pollution and has denied claims it too was engaged in dumping waste on the lands at Whitestown, Co Wicklow, situated between Blessington and Baltinglass in the flood plain of the Carrigower river, a tributary of the river Slaney.
Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe is hearing two sets of proceedings to determine what remediation works should be carried out and who is liable for the costs of such works.
In the first action, Wicklow County Council is seeking orders under the Waste Management Act against the former owner of the Whitestown lands, John O’Reilly; Brownfield Restoration Ireland Ltd, which bought the lands from Mr O’Reilly in 2003; and two waste companies, Swalcliffe Ltd, trading as Dublin Waste, and Dean Waste Co Ltd.
The council claims John O’Reilly has admitted he had allowed Dublin Waste and Dean Waste to dump waste on the lands and had received payment for that. It also claims Brownfield entered into a contract with Mr O’Reilly in 2003 to buy the lands and took possession of the lands in September 2003 in full knowledge of the illegal activities.
Investigations carried out on the Whitestown site had revealed some 286,000 tonnes of waste, which in turn had contaminated surrounding soil, the council claims. Some 1,140,000 tonnes of waste and contaminated soil will need to be removed and/or treated, it argued.
One landfill area on the site had been found to hold more than 90,000 tonnes of waste, equivalent to the loads of some 4,686 20-tonne waste trucks, the council said. Material in that area had been traced to Dublin Waste, including blood and hospital waste.
The council claims most of that waste was put there in 2000 and 2001, but some could date back to the late 1990s.
The council claims Dean Waste dumped other waste in another landfill area on the site and alleges there is evidence to support claims that company was responsible for a large volume of polluting material found on that site.
Dean Waste claims it dumped only construction and demolition waste there in early 1998 and such waste is not an environmental hazard. Other waste on another landfill site, including the remains of a burned out pub, appeared to relate to Mr O’Reilly only, the council claimed. In its claim against Brownfield, the council claims it has been the holder of the waste since it took possession of the lands in 2003 and remains in possession or control of the waste.
It alleges Brownfield has ongoing obligations which, under the Protection of the Environment Act 2003, render it accountable for the waste on the site.
In cross-proceedings, Brownfield and Dean Waste alleges the council was itself engaged in dumping on the lands, including of road work materials, and should bear the remediation costs. The council denies those claims.