“It happened on the spur of the moment,” said Con O’Leary. “I hadn’t planned to do it. I didn’t know what I was doing. It happened so fast, I had no time to be scared,” the 71-year-old said.
“I was wet and perished afterwards. I’m still in a bit of shock but I’m thankful to the ambulance para-medics and the gardaí.”
Mr O’Leary, who was not hospitalised after the early morning incident, lives in a caravan at Coolcower near Macroom, Co Cork.
His caravan is on a site bordering the Carrigadrohid reservoir, which provides drinking water to about 95,000 people and also supplies the ESB’s Lee Hydro Scheme downstream at Inniscarra.
Over the years, up to 140 ‘end-of-life’ vehicles had been dumped on a triangular site adjacent to where Mr O’Leary lived. He had faced court proceedings, taken by Cork County Council, for failing to comply with the Waste Management Act and holding waste in a manner likely to cause environmental pollution. Mr O’Leary had initially been fined €9,000 but, on appeal to the circuit court last year, the probation act was applied after he contributed €5,000 towards the clean-up of the site.
The former mechanic claimed the ESB, in recent days, had erected concrete bollards denying him access to and from the site. Fencing had also been erected. Mr O’Leary said yesterday: “They blocked me off from the main road. As such, my vehicles were ‘landlocked’. I asked them to leave open a gap.
“As far as I was concerned, I couldn’t get off the site to the main road, so I went the other way — into the water.
His 95-registered wine-coloured Toyota Starlet was recovered from the water by a truck breakdown company. A total of three vehicles, including a van, were removed.
In a statement, the ESB said it had been working in co-operation with Cork County Council to remove waste “dumped by a third party on lands owned by ESB”. As part of the operation, the ESB said, a number of vehicles which had “been dumped on the site” were removed yesterday.