A Buncrana businessman has been given another week to remove 300 tonnes of waste material from the site of a major fire last year.
Donegal County Council made an application at Letterkenny District Court under the Waste Management Act, 1996 against Colm McDaid of Druminar, Meenagorey, Buncrana.
On October 27 last, 46 fire fighters battled a blaze and spent a total of 36 hours on the site to bring the fire under control.
Mr McDaid has appeared at multiple court sittings since with the local authority anxious about the lack of progress.
At this week’s sitting of Letterkenny District Court, Mr Frank Dorian, solicitor for Mr McDaid, said that a company had been arranged to collect the waste within the coming days.
He said his client was under financial constraints and environmental constraints. Mr Dorrian told the court that the arrival of the waste collection company would represent a ‘significant’ step in the case.
Mr Kevin McElhinney, solicitor for Donegal County Council, said he accepted this in principle, but added: “We have been told that before.”
“We have been again told ‘next week’,” Mr McElhinney said.
Judge Éiteáin Cunningham adjourned the matter until February 14.
“What seems to happen is that it is put off until the eve of or the morning of court,” Judge Cunningham said. “This really shouldn’t have to be monitored.”
Luke O’Connell, a waste enforcement officer with Donegal County Council, told a previous court sitting that he attended the site after the fire on October 27.
Units from Buncrana and Moville attended the scene along with firefighters from Derry.
Crews battled the flames for 36 hours before bringing it under control. The blaze re-ignited in the early hours of October 28, necessitating the return of further firefighters. The court heard that the total cost of the incident to Donegal County Council, including the deployment of the fire service, was around 95,000.
Mr O’Connell highlighted concerns over water courses and the fish population. He called for ‘immediate action’. He said the waste should, at least, be covered with a tarpaulin to prevent rainwater from falling on the waste and running off into the nearby water courses.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Michael Scott told how firefighters took 36 hours to tackle the fire.
“It was a very substantial fire,” Mr Scott told the court. Mr Scott said that Mr McDaid had a ‘duty of care to make sure the buildings are safe’ and told the court that it was his opinion that parts of the structure were ‘compromised’.
He said Mr McDaid was advised to leave the waste outside in case another fire broke out.
Mr Dorrian said it was ‘unlikely to spontaneously combust’. “You couldn’t light it with a flamethrower,” the solicitor said, adding that his client, a welder fabricator, disputed suggestions that the structure was compromised.
“It is as good as the day it went up,” Mr Dorrian said. “There is 300 tonnes of soaking wet material here – it does not present fire safety concerns. The weight of it is three times what it was and it is, largely, burned material.”
Donegal County Council outlined that Mr McDaid was given months to remove the waste, Mr Dorrian said that operators were ‘at capacity’ and it was not until the new year that new tonnages were allocated.
Mr Dorrian said that there is a ‘very elaborate’ network of administration attached to finding authorised waste disposal operators.
A proposal to put the waste into a shed and allow the run-off to be dealt with by catchment tanks was not to the satisfaction of the local authority.
Mr Dorrian said: “If we are hopefully entrenched, the bottom line is we will have nowhere to go and this has to be sufficiently managed until it has somewhere to go.”
Mr McDaid claimed that endeavours to deal with the matter had been hindered by another man who, he said, blocks the laneway when anyone arrives.
Donegal County Council Litter Warden Brian McBrearty told a December court sitting that he received a text message from Mr McDaid in late October, saying in relation to the waste: “Sound, I will get that sorted here.” Mr McBrearty said that no correspondence had been received to suggest that Mr McDaid was in any difficulty in dealing with the issue.
At the time Judge Cunningham described it as a ‘very serious matter’ and said she wasn’t satisfied with the response of Mr McDaid.
“The court is most concerned,” Judge Cunningham said. “Certain assurances were given and nothing is in effect.“