Cork County Council has been ordered to pay fines and legal costs totalling €17,500 for breaches of its waste licence to operate a major landfill site outside Carrigtwohill, including allowing dangerous levels of potentially explosive gas and polluted liquid to build up.
The local authority pleaded guilty at Midleton District Court to five charges of breaching the terms of its licence to operate the East Cork Landfill in a prosecution taken by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The charges included a failure to maintain all gas flares on the site in a safe and fully operational manner over a two-and-a half week period in September 2018.
The council also admitted failing to notify the EPA as soon as practicable about a notifiable incident relating to outages of gas flares at the landfill in November 2018.
Similarly, it also failed to alert the EPA, as required under the terms of its licence, about a separate incident involving excessive levels of leachate (liquid from decomposed waste) at part of the site in the same month.
The court heard the council failed to maintain adequate records of its monitoring of the entire landfill gas management scheme on November 15, 2018.
It also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of failing to ensure that leachate did not exceed a level of one metre over a high-density polyethylene liner on May 13, 2019.
On hearing evidence from EPA officials and representatives of the council, Judge Brian Sheridan convicted the council on all offences and imposed a fine of €1,000 on each charge, as well as ordering the council to pay the EPA’s legal costs in the case.
At a sitting of the same court last year, EPA inspector Joe Hunter said problems that it had identified at the landfill site at Rossmore, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, remained several months after the agency had first raised concerns with senior council officials.
Mr Hunter said he had inspected the site on November 15, 2018, and found that a gas flare, which is used to burn off landfill gas in order to avoid a build-up that could cause an explosion, was not working.
The EPA official said an examination of historical data showed that the gas flare had not been working for most of the previous six months.
A surveillance system that was supposed to keep records of site management was also not maintained in line with regulations.
Mr Hunter said leachate had built up to a “dangerously high” level of 5.8 metres when the limit was just one metre.
Judge Sheridan described the EPA’s evidence as “startling”.
Sentencing in the case was adjourned on a number of occasions over the past 12 months to allow the council make improvements at the site.