Donal Connaughton admitted to Longford Circuit Court that he had been driven by greed and failed to abide by the planning regulations in developing the farm which at one stage housed 14,000 pigs.
Connaughton, aged 55, of Elfleet, Newtowncashel, Co Longford, was convicted at Longford District Court last month of causing or permitting effluent from massive tanks, containing 4m gallons of slurry, at the now-derelict pig farm, to fall into a local lake in March of last year.
The prosecution was taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland and Connaughton was given a sentence of 10 weeks in prison and fined €3,000 with €5,400 costs. He appealed the sentence to the Circuit Court.
Solicitor Jacqueline Maloney, for the Inland Fisheries, told the Circuit Court that there were at least 25 tanks — located both overground and underground — at the pig farm.
The tanks had been built without planning permission and, when a court order was granted for their demolition, only the roofs were removed, which exposed the contents to the elements and exacerbated the problem.
Michael Fitzsimons, senior inspector with Inland Fisheries Ireland, told Judge Keenan Johnson that some of the enrichment readings taken from nearby Lough Slawn, just over 1km from the piggery, were up to 500 times higher than recommended limits.
The closer to the piggery that the readings were taken, the higher the levels recorded, he said. In one part of the lake which feeds into Lough Ree, sewage fungus was present, indicating that the pollution was going on for some time.
Ms Maloney told Judge Keenan Johnson that it had been Mr Connaughton’s defence in the District Court that it was everybody’s fault, including Longford County Council’s, except his own.
However, defence solicitor Mark Connellan argued that his client had been shouting from the heavens since 2012 that there was an environmental disaster pending, but nobody did anything.
The county council had ignored Mr Connaughton until the prosecution had come before the District Court, Mr Connellan said. He was now financially destitute and unable to pay for the cost of resolving the problem.
“It’s a mess — it’s dreadful”, said Judge Johnson after viewing photographs of the piggery.
Connaughton admitted in evidence that greed and misjudgement had led him to developing such a large farm, but in 2007 his business had gone downhill.
Judge Johnson said that he may not have any money but he had hands to work and he wanted to see him work along with his family and in co-operation with the county council to devise a plan and have it in place by May 19.
“I expect this pollution issue to be resolved by the end of this year,” he said, adjourning the appeal to May for an updated report.