THERE were just nine prosecutions in relation to illegal dumping in Clare last year, county council figures show.
At this week’s meeting of the council, members were told over €1.7 million was spent on running the council’s waste enforcement section over the last four years. While there have been “very few large-scale illegal dumps” in Clare in recent years, there have been increasing incidences of people dumping small amounts of waste.
As well as the nine prosecutions, there were 75 litter fines in 2014.
Various members voiced their disgust at the level of illegal dumping, with calls for new penalties.
Councillors Clare Colleran Molloy, Pat McMahon and Michael Hillery put down a joint motion asking for information on illegal dumping, including the number of prosecutions, the financial cost to the council of illegal dumping and information on patterns of dumping, in each of the last four years.
In her written reply Anne Haugh, of the council’s environment section, outlined the level of prosecutions.
“The numbers of prosecutions were as follows: 2011-3, 2012-7, 2013-5 and 2014-9. The figures for 2011, 2012 and 2013 comprise Litter Pollution Act prosecutions only. The figures for 2014 included Litter Act prosecutions, plus one under the Waste Management Act. Generally, illegal dumping of waste and bagged waste leads to a Litter Act prosecution. Prosecutions under the Waste Management Act comprise a number of headings, including licences and permits, certificates of registration and large-scale illegal dumps. There have been very few large-scale illegal dumps in recent years.”
She stated that of the 24 prosecutions, 15 led to a conviction.
With regard to cost, she stated that running the environment waste enforcement section of the council came to €441,032 in 2011, €475,550 the following year, €409,122 in 2013 and €408,157 in 2014, although last year’s figure is not a final one.
With regard to legal costs, she said the figure for 2011 was €5,894, for 2012 it was €3,907, in 2013 it was €1,585 and last year it stood at €1,770, although this is also not the final figure.
She said there are an increasing number of cases where small amounts of waste are being improperly disposed of.
“There are many more instances of small quantities of waste being deposited around the county, for example, plastic shopping bags or bin bags full of refuse, typically being thrown from vehicles or deposited in verges and laneways.
“In Ennis and Shannon, deposition of household waste into street bins has increased. Out-of-hours patrols have failed to yield any prosecutions due to the sporadic nature of these offences to date. However, we are investigating these offences continually.”
Illegal dumping is most prominent in the areas immediately outside the main urban areas, the report claimed.Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy said the issue of illegal dumping is becoming “rampant”.
She said she regularly walks her dogs around the Ballybeg area and that there has been a significant litter problem around Clareabbey. The Fianna Fáil councillor claimed there had been a major dump cleared out just before Christmas but one week into the new year, another one had replaced it.
She said she had recently attended a presentation on waste, which showed that 54% of Clare households are signed up to a collection service, compared to an average of 67% in the south-west area.
“It needs to be explained why 46% aren’t registered,” she added.
Councillor Colleran Molloy suggested introducing new measures to tackle illegal dumping. She said these might include week-long driving bans for those caught fly tipping, penalty points for repeat offenders and portions of fines levied on offenders being awarded to those who report the offences.
Regarding waste collection, Councillor Ian Lynch said there have been complaints that it should be covered by the property tax and that there are people who can’t afford it.
Councillor Cathal Crowe prefaced his contribution by admitting that he had received a fine previously, for having an election sign up in his area.
He said there is a risk of “going for softer targets”, while he said that in the past he had reported someone who could be identified but there had been no prosecution. If he comes across such a case again, he said he would pass it on to the media instead.
Councillor Crowe did not accept that affordability was the reason many people do not have a waste collection service.
“The reality is that people are driving new cars and living in fine houses but they couldn’t bother their barney paying for litter.”