EPA urged to launch dumping probe after spate of blazes

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been asked to investigate illegal dumping activity on a site on the northside of Cork City after a spate of suspicious fires in recent days.

A formal complaint about conditions at Ellis’s Yard in Ballyvolane was lodged with the EPA yesterday after firefighters tackled several rubbish-related fires there across the weekend.

Two units of Cork City Fire Brigade spent several hours tackling a massive blaze on the land next to the Spring Lane Traveller halting site on Friday night.

People living in nearby housing estates were forced indoors by plumes of thick acrid smoke. Firefighters spent almost three hours dousing the flames with thousands of litres of water before a decision was taken to use special foam.

Two units from the county fire brigade provided backup in the city while fire crews dealt with this blaze.

It was almost four hours before firefighters were satisfied that the blaze was out.

It was one of the largest of 28 callouts the city’s fire crews responded to over a 15-hour shift from 6pm on Friday to 9am on Saturday. However, crews were called back to the site on Saturday night and on Sunday after several smaller fires broke out.

Fianna Fáil councillor Ken O’Flynn said he was “absolutely disgusted” to see the fire services called out yet again to the “dumping site”.

Not only is it unfair to our valiant men and women of the fire service, it is a tragic waste of taxpayers’ money and deeply unfair to the residents living around the area,” said Mr O’Flynn.

Conditions in the adjoining halting site have been described as amongst the worst in the country.

The Ellis’s Yard site was earmarked by the city council for a major extension of the halting site in a bid to ease overcrowding and to formalise an unauthorised expansion of the site by Traveller families.

EPA urged to launch dumping probe after spate of blazes

However, the plan was shot down by councillors and the site has been plagued by illegal dumping since.

Figures obtained by the Irish Examiner in March showed Cork City Fire Brigade had been tasked to Ellis’s Yard 78 times in the previous 12 months, and 136 times in the last two years.

Figures obtained by this newspaper in 2014 showed more than €570,000 has been spent on three major clean-ups of the site since 2003.

A clean-up for in January and February 2003 cost €277,200 — the landfill charges alone were €198,900.

A clean-up of the site in September and October 2007 cost €159,600, with €59,600 spent on contractor fees and an estimated €100,000 on landfill charges.

The third clean-up in February and March 2009 cost €140,050, with landfill charges of just over €83,000.

A spokeswoman for the council’s environment directorate said the illegal dumping activity shows blatant disregard for people living in neighbouring properties.

EPA urged to launch dumping probe after spate of blazes

“Illegal dumping is criminal activity,” she said.

“Despite several clean-ups and security measures, including the installation of CCTV cameras which were torn down, we have been unable to break the cycle of illegal dumping at this site.

But we have a duty to the community and we take our health and safety responsibilities seriously, and despite the cost to the taxpayer, we will have to consider another clean-up.

The Traveller Visibility Group (TVG), which represents families on the halting site, accepted that while some of the rubbish came from inside the halting site, rubbish from outside was being dumped there too.

“Ellis’s Yard is used as a dumping group for the local area. This is a much broader problem,” said a TVG spokeswoman.

She said residents of the halting site have tried to address the illegal dumping by blocking some access points and arranging clean-ups.

“Residents have asked for housing to be built on this site — it could be an effective solution to the problem,” said the TVG spokeswoman. “The people have a solution and need to be listened to, but they feel very powerless at the moment.”

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