The dump in Kilconnell will stop accepting landfill waste – for good – in 2019, it was confirmed this week.
However, the landfill site, which caused much angst in the greater Ballinasloe area when it was first mooted well over a decade ago, will require at least 25 years of ‘aftercare’.
Galway County Council director of services for environment, water and emergency services, Jim Cullen, gave a cast-iron assurance that the Department of Environment would fund the after-care programme until 2045.
Mr Cullen said there was “zero risk” to the Council and the contract with the Department was “legally binding” in relation to the cost of aftercare including leachate.
Mr Cullen and Senior Executive Engineer, Mike Melody, gave an update on the Kilconnell dump to members of Ballinasloe Municipal District at the latest meeting.
The dump was closed and stopped taking waste back in 2012 when a receiver was appointed to the operators Greenstar.
The County Council subsequently, following negotiations, took over the running of the facility. It reopened under the local authority about eight months ago, and recommenced taking waste.
In a presentation to councillors, Mr Melody gave an outline of the plans to ‘wind down’ the dump and to ‘cap’ the landfill that has filled it over the years since it was first opened in 2005.
He explained to councillors that for three years and eight months contractors will be on-site ‘capping’ the landfill site, which is effectively closing off the waste that has been dumped.
The first phases of the capping of cells 1-5 will commence in the second quarter of this year – Fehily Timoney and Company won the contract for the job after a competitive tender process that began last year.
Cells number 6-9 will be capped in 2018 and 2019, and the final two cells will be capped in October 2020.
The works will include soil placement, drainage and landscaping over the capped cells.
Mr Cullen, under questioning from councillors, confirmed that the dump would continue to accept waste up to the first quarter of 2019.
When the Council took over the facility, the site still had capacity for some 300,000 tonnes of waste.
In 2016, some 50,000 tonnes of waste was accepted and it is envisaged that more than 100,000 tonnes will be accepted in 2017 and 2018, with far less in 2019.
Mr Melody said the 60-hectares site was opened for 100 days in 2016, and was closed for just one and a half hours due to high winds.
It accepted just over 48,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste from eleven collectors around Connacht, as well as over 4,000 tonnes of recovery materials since August last year.
None of the waste was hazardous, he confirmed, which was in keeping with the waste licence.
There are nine County Council staff working on-site, with two back-office support employees working from Council offices in Liosbaun in the city. The Department is reimbursing the Council for the cost of staffing the facility, the meeting heard.
In his update, Mr Melody told Councillors that there were no major accidents on site during that time but there was one minor accident when a third-party surveyor “slipped in the landfill”.
He was treated in hospital for a “minor rib injury” and released the same day, he said.
There were just two complaints received since the Council took over – one for noise and one for smell.
Sinn Féin County Councillor Dermot Connolly said he was chairman of the landfill liaison committee, which was at times a “poisoned chalice” but he praised the local authority for the manner it has run the facility since Greenstar ceased.
Fine Gael’s Aidan Donoghue applauded the Council for how they have run the dump, and he suggested they look at planting woodlands around it once it is capped.
Independent Timmy Broderick criticised the Environmental Protection Agency, who “took the eye off the ball” in relation to securing a bond from Greenstar to pay for the aftercare of the facility. Mr Cullen assured him that would not happen again.
He confirmed there had been “100% cooperation with the Department of Environment”.
The relationship with the EPA is how it should be – the Council runs the site and they supervise that. “We’ve no difficulty with them inspecting the site, any day,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Cullen gave assurances to Cllr Dermot Connolly that he would hold a public meeting to inform the public of Council plans to build an integrated wetland at Poolboy Landfill in Ballinasloe.
He agreed it was a “good news story” and was a measure that would help the environment and the Council needed to communicate what exactly they are doing since An Bórd Pleanála granted permission in January for the construction of a wetland.