Environment bosses took six days to remove asbestos from bonfire site

It took six days for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to start removing deadly asbestos dumped at a bonfire site used by children in Co Tyrone, a councillor has claimed.

The large amount of material – believed to be from chicken houses – is understood to have been dumped at Monrush, Cookstown, overnight at the beginning of June.

A member of the public alerted former Mid Ulster District Council chair Trevor Wilson on Sunday, June 4. He said he passed that on to the council’s Environmental Health Department, who informed NIEA the next day.

BelfastLive has reported that the man claimed NIEA officers did not start taking it away until June 10 – and it took another visit on June 12 to clear it up.

The news comes after a nine-year-old boy was hospitalised after coming into contact with toxic chemicals at a bonfire site near Belfast’s Shankill Road last month.

The UUP’s Mr Wilson said:

“Whoever dumped it has shown no regard for health and safety of the young people building this bonfire.”

In response, the NIEA said:

“At the request of Mid Ulster Council, the asbestos materials found at the Monrush site were identified and assessed at the earliest opportunity.

Unfortunately hazardous material such as asbestos are too often dumped illegally by those who wish to avoid complying the more stringent legislative requirements and incurring the associated costs regarding the handling, transport and appropriate disposal of such materials.

As with all incidents of illegal disposal the NIEA will, where sufficient evidence exists, pursue those responsible and take appropriate enforcement action.”

Cllr Wilson has also appealed for anyone with information to contact the PSNI.

PSNI Superintendent Mike Baird said:

“Following concerns raised by local residents, police along with Mid Ulster District Council and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency identified a significant amount of asbestos waste that had been dumped near to the bonfire site at Monrush.

Safety for everyone is paramount. While the physical removal of bonfire material is not a matter for police, we will assist other lead statutory partners if called upon to do so.”

A spokesman for the council described the incident as a serious. He said:

“This was a reckless and indiscriminate case of illegal dumping which showed absolutely no regard for the safety of local people and is to be condemned.

The council will continue to work closely with the local community and its partner agencies to address similar issues which arise in the coming months.”