Waste repatriation progress in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland's environment minister, Edwin Poots has welcomed the progress being made in the repatriation of waste from Northern Ireland to the Republic.
Northern Ireland Environment Agency's officials are working with their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland to repatriate an estimated 250,000 tonnes of waste which was illegally dumped in 20 sites across Northern Ireland over five years ago.
The work started in August, in Slattinagh, County Fermanagh, the first site to have its waste removed and returned across the border.
Over a five week operation, an estimated 7,000 tonnes of waste was excavated from the site and taken to a licensed landfill in County Donegal.
Work is in process at the second site at Trillick in Co. Tyrone, where over 10,000 tonnes of waste is expected to be removed by the end of October.
Mr Poots said: "I am encouraged by how well our jurisdictions are working together and trust that this will continue throughout what will be a long and detailed process.
"What we have achieved, and will accomplish, demonstrates how important cross-border co-operation is in protecting both our environment and those who are trying to run legal waste businesses in these challenging economic times.
"This work will greatly reduce major uncontrolled, long term pollution on this island, as well as demonstrate to environmental offenders that they will be caught and punished."
Under a framework agreement endorsed by the Environment Ministers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (ROI), the full cost of disposing of the waste will be met by the Republic but Northern Ireland will pay a fifth towards the costs of excavating, examining and removing the waste and remediating the site afterwards.
The Minister praised those who have worked on the first two sites at Slattinagh, County Fermanagh and Trillick, County Tyrone.
He said: "Overall, the staff at both sites have demonstrated excellent co-operation and effective working relations despite the challenges encountered. These included communication difficulties, managing the risks posed by gasses during excavation and logistical and practical difficulties in waste excavation.
"Enforcement staff from both jurisdictions will work together to ensure that waste originating in the Republic is not illegally dumped in Northern Ireland in the future. These joint enforcement operations together with the prosecution of those previously involved in this type of environmental crime are part of a huge effort to stop it happening again."
Work on the third site just outside Kilkeel will begin in spring 2011.