‘Ponding’ led to biggest-ever dumping probe

Environment Minister Alex Attwood pictured at the Press conference at Orchard House on Wednesday morning. 0706JM02
Environment Minister Alex Attwood pictured at the Press conference at Orchard House on Wednesday morning. 0706JM02

Bubbles rising to the surface of “ponding” in a field led to the biggest investigation into illegal dumping ever mounted in Northern Ireland.

The Environmental Crime Unit’s Operation Sycamore investigation was based on that “intelligence” which indicated the emergence of methane gas from underground, Environment Minister Alex Attwood has said.

He said his department had moved “decisively” against unlawful waste activity taking place since at least 2009 in Derry. “Operation Sycamore has already resulted in the arrest of two individuals in connection with alleged offences and further arrests are expected as the operation continues. A number of individuals, businesses and land folios are the subject of the investigation,” he said. However, he revealed that all of the offending was located in and around the same area on four sites which are adjacent to a regulated landfill site near the banks of the River Faughan. The licensed operation was shut by DOE inspectors at Mobouy Road on Wednesday. The owners of the site have also been “required over a period of two months” to deliver all waste remaining to a legal landfill site for disposal. Other notices have been served on the owners of the land used for the illegal disposal of the waste, requiring them to take action to prevent environmental damage by removing polluting liquid from the waste for disposal elsewhere. Mr Atwood said; “The scale of the unlawful waste activity is immense and appalling. Material was mangled and shredded to hide its original sourcing, with illegal landfills being topfilled with soil.”