A major investigation has been launched after medical waste including tablets, urine specimen bottles, and used syringes — some clearly displaying the names of patients — washed up on the shores of Cork harbour.
Cork County Council’s waste enforcement unit started the investigation after a man living in the lower harbour area said he had seen medical waste washing up during the past year close to the former IFI site at Marino Point and also along the shoreline by Fota Wildlife Park.
The man, who lives in the Passage West area, took pictures of some of the latest waste and contacted county mayor Seamus McGrath about the issue.
The man, who does not want to be identified, told the Irish Examiner the urine samples feature addresses of people living in Cork.
“The most alarming thing for me was the number of needles strewn on the shoreline,” he said. “Families walk in some of these areas and there would also be a serious concern about health and safety if children were to pick them up.”
The man also claimed that he had seen tablets washed up on the shoreline.
Council officials say that only specialist waste contractors should be employed to dispose of medical waste and are determined to track down who supplied the material for disposal and who dumped it. It is an offence to hire somebody to dispose of waste who does not have a proper permit.
“There is an obligation on everybody to dispose of waste properly, but even more so with medical waste which can only be disposed of by specialist companies,” said a senior council official. “You just can’t throw it in a skip because it could be potentially hazardous.”
People convicted of not disposing of their waste properly could face a €4,000 fine and/or 12 months in jail.
“This is a very serious matter because of the potential health and safety ramifications,” said Mr McGrath. “I have asked the waste enforcement section to carry out a full and rigorous investigation.
“We have to identify the source of this waste and whoever was responsible for dumping it in the harbour. The full rigors of the law will have to be applied to these individuals.”
Meanwhile, council officials confirmed an investigation into the illegal dumping of medical waste in North Cork last year is ongoing.
Hundreds of full and half-full colostomy bags were found scattered on the roadside and hanging off trees at Velvetstown near Buttevant.
Council officials were forced to bring in a specialist firm to clean up the site, costing taxpayers’ thousands of euro. Officials immediately started an investigation to try and trace the culprit and brought in the HSE to help. To date there have been no prosecutions.
“We are appealing to anybody who comes across the dumping of such waste to inform us if they suspect a culprit. We will always treat such information in the strictest of confidence,” a council source said.
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