An exposed dump is spilling toxic asbestos on to a beach in Bray, Co Wicklow – and may contain more then twice the volume of waste as thought.
For decades the former Bray Urban Council dumped municipal waste on the site north of the harbour, most of which is actually in Co Dublin, making it now the responsibility of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.
In September 2005, after the environmental group Coastwatch reported the dump had begun falling into the sea, an assessment carried out by Wicklow County Council estimated the waste could amount to as much as 48,000 cubic metres in volume.
The assessment concluded that the main environmental impact of the former landfill was limited to the visual intrusion of the exposed waste within the cliff face on the coastline, and at the top of the cliff.
However, a report by environmental consultants Fehily Timoney for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and delivered last December found that the dump contains more then 104,000 cubic metres of waste, including broken asbestos tiles, and features excessive levels of ammoniacal nitrogen, potassium and manganese in the groundwater.
The report concluded that the depth of waste in the landfill was 8.7m at the northern end of the site and noted that erosion of the clay walls has exposed a 200m stretch of the former landfill. It said contents are spilling onto the beach and being washed away by the sea.
The report said asbestos-containing materials have also been identified at the coastal breach area in the southern portion of the site in recent years.
The issue was raised in the Dáil on January 25th by Wicklow TD John Brady of Sinn Féin. In response, Minister for Climate Change and Environment Denis Naughten, said a management plan to contain the waste was being drawn up.
The Minister told the Dáil that the Environmental Protection Agency was overseeing a remediation and containment plan as necessary.
Regular monitoring and inspections of the beach are being carried out by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Wicklow County Council and Woodbrook Golf Club, on whose land part of the former dump is located, the Minister said.
Mr Brady expressed concern to The Irish Times that “environmental vandalism” would be allowed to fall between two local authorities.
He said the latest report identified evidence of asbestos and creosote, which had implications for human health as well as the environment in the form of pollution of groundwater. Much of the material was ending up on the beach, where humans could come into contact with it, he said.
“Just allowing nature to take its course and [letting] this dump fall into the sea is not a solution,” the TD said. “It needs to be addressed by both authorities working together with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environment.”
Mr Brady said the next step in the process was for all bodies to approve a mitigation scheme.
He also drew attention to the former Fassaroe dump, another local authority site operated by Wicklow County Council on a larger scale than the harbour dump.
The TD said he had brought an orange-coloured leachate from the Fassaroe dump to the attention of the council a number of years ago.