The ‘depressing and exhausting’ fight against illegal dumping in the countryside

Going for a walk in the countryside each day is one of the great joys in life for retired Bullaun resident, Jan Allum.

With her five rescue dogs, she often walks through the bog in Carra, a trail she says is so lovely, that you can see “all the colours changing through the seasons”.

But, that’s not the only thing she sees. Over the last three years, Allum says she has been witness to countless farm animals, items of home furniture and general rubbish dumped in the bog that lies in east Co. Galway, around 6km from Loughrea.

‘We don’t go looking to find things dumped’

She tells AgriLand, with great affection, that her dogs “make me get up in the morning and get on with things, especially during this time”.

“It was nice recently that due to Covid-19, a lot of people from the village were coming out here for walks with children and dogs in the fresh air. Here, you’re away from everything and it’s lovely – it’s the peace that people need,” she said.

“But then children come across dead animals and that is horrendous.

We don’t go looking to find things dumped…it is just there. It is frightening when you see the dead animals and the smell is horrendous.

“These people dump in such a hurry that they don’t even see if what they’re dumping is hidden some bit – it’s just right there, near the path.”

‘We’re not even surprised anymore’

Allum says the situation has been going on for so long that “we’re not even surprised anymore”.

“There’s been calves, sheep, lambs, deer…who would do such a thing? Who could do it?”

Allum, along with others, has reported this to Galway County Council, with no luck.

This is because CCTV footage cannot be used as evidence to prosecute someone for illegally dumping.

In the Dáil recently, Galway West TD Noel Grealish called this a “ridiculous ruling”.

It is understood that the Data Protection Commissioner has written to the Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan concerning data protection issues with the use of CCTV cameras for litter and waste enforcement purposes. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it is the view of the Data Protection Commissioner that “although the Litter Pollution Acts and the Waste Management Act provide councils with powers to prevent, investigate, detect and prosecute littering and dumping offences, the acts do not provide for processing of images of members of the public using CCTV footage”.

‘There’s so much illegal dumping going on it’s cruel’

Galway County Councillor Michael ‘Mogie’ Maher told AgriLand that “there’s so much illegal dumping going on that it’s cruel”.

The country roads are destroyed. Complaints made to the council about this can’t go anywhere. It’s a waste of time trying to catch these guys – €100,000 to put up cameras and we can’t use the footage. Completely crazy.

“There’s nothing we can do. Unless there are people physically there watching people dump then they cannot catch them and cannot find them. There are very few fines paid for illegal dumping – if any – to tell you the truth.”

‘It’s depressing and it’s exhausting’

It is “beyond belief” to Galway County Council that in a modern society, it is still battling with the issue of illegal animal dumping.

With the problem only getting worse, county veterinary officer Rita Gately told AgriLand that Covid-19 and the restrictions that came with it may have had a part to play in the increase in dumping over the last number of months, but it is “certainly no excuse”.

Allum said that her, along with other locals, are concerned about the water supply being affected, with Gately saying this concern is shared with the council – particularly the risk of cryptosporidium, a zoonotic parasite that causes the disease cryptosporidiosis (crypto).

“It’s depressing and it’s exhausting trying to do anything about it,” Allum said. “And it feels as though it won’t ever change.”