Dirty Business Spotlight

Dirty Business

In an investigation that stretches to eastern Europe, Alys Harte asks how one of the biggest illegal dumps in Europe ended up in scenic countryside outside Derry.

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2013 showed The Maiden City off in a new light.


Street party after street party. The capital of the North West was


rebranded as a modern and progressive City of Culture.


A tourist destination. But just outside the city, officials


were finally getting to grips with a shocking discovery.


And an ugly truth was bubbling to the surface..


A huge illegal dump - thought to be one of the largest single cases in


Europe. The scale of this is beyond anything


that has been seen before. It is something of biblical


proportions. It is a festering mass of steaming, stinking, putrefying


waste. Tonight, in an investigation that


has taken us to Eastern Europe, we reveal how over 500,000 tonnes of


illegal waste ended up in the scenic countryside of the North West.


The moment it would get dark, they were starting to dump things till


the morning. We ask how the authorities got it so


wrong? A huge illegal dump in the area says we need to do better.


And we track down some of those involved with the site, to look for


answers. Mr Doherty you must be able to


explain how 500,000 tonnes ended up in your land? If Excuse me, I don't


want to be ignorant to you. Could you please leave the golf


course? Disposal of waste is a controversial


business in Derry. This group are objecting to proposals for the


future of waste management. Last Halloween, they took to the streets,


to campaign against the development of a new plant that would turn waste


into gas. Trust me, it is not an incinerator!


But just a few miles from the city centre, an example of how waste has


been dealt with in the past is buried just beneath the surface.


In June of last year, a recycling company was dramatically shut down


overnight. Six months earlier, the directors of a quarry company across


the road had been arrested. They were later released and have not


been charged. The then-Minister, Alex Attwood, ordered a full-scale


investigation of activities at the Derry site.


The scale of environmental damage and vandalism is beyond what we have


seen before and, consequently, we have taken unprecedented steps, in


order to revoke the licence of a waste management company, so that


any and all of those who were responsible for this criminal


activity are all dealt with. At first glance, you would have no


idea what has really been going on in this area for the last few years.


But the truth is astonishing. Just over there is a dump containing an


estimated 500,000 tonnes of illegal waste... About ten Titanics in


weight. And the truth is, nobody even knows


what is in there. The land being investigated


stretches for almost 1.5 kilometres - as far as the eye can see. In


order to appreciate the sheer scale of the dump, thought to be the one


of the single biggest cases discovered in Europe, you have to


look at it from another perspective. And that is just what I am about to


do. We are, literally, pretty much


parallel with the road here and then, we are going to pick up the


Faughan River here and follow it down to Drumahoe.


Just below, we can see where the River Faughan meets the River Foyle,


just outside Derry city. All The river, famous for its salmon


fishing, is Special Area of Conservation, the highest degree of


protection set by Europe. The council may want this to be a


tourist magnet, but from up here, you can see how other industries got


here first. Industries like quarrying. It is


quite shocking how close the River Faughan is to the quarry and the


waste management company, given that the River Faughan is a major


drinking water source for the people of Derry.


Two companies on the Mobuoy Road are at the heart of a criminal


investigation. The quarry company seen here on the


left, Campsie Sand Gravel, is owned by a man called Paul Doherty.


Across the road is a recycling company, City Industrial Waste, that


was paid by seven different councils, including Derry, to


process recyclables. Paul Doherty initially owned City


Waste, but in 2004 he sold it to these men, Gerry Farmer and Gerry


O'Malley, from Armagh. Journalist Kevin Mullan says there was no


reason to believe City Waste was anything other than a good news


story. They were the poster boys, in terms


of their own industry. They were painted as extremely professional.


We assumed they were. Local press covered them and were quite gushing


about their investment. As was only correct, I suppose, in the sense


that they were employing people, they were making things here. But


little did we know what was coming down the line.


Sources have told Spotlight that investigators have found rubbish


belonging to City Waste buried in one of Paul Doherty's quarries. We


understand making the connection was a painstaking process and, in a


statement in June, the DoE said the material was shredded, to disguise


where it came from, Gerry Farmer, Gerry O'Malley and Paul Doherty


strenuously deny any allegations of criminality.


So how did 500,000 tonnes of illegal waste get there? For the last four


months, we have been piecing together evidence, including


eye-witness accounts, which suggest that, whoever was responsible, this


was a complex and sophisticated scam. We have tracked down former


workers from inside both companies. No-one has spoken publicly about


what they say happened. Until now. Many of those processing rubbish at


City Waste were Polish. Former workers we have interviewed have


asked that we disguise their identities. "Tomak" says that,


instead of being transported to lawful landfill, rubbish was


shredded on site, loaded on to small dumper trucks, covered over and


hidden with clay and dumped on the Mobuoy Road.


I seen it being loaded and, even when they passed you, you know, you


seen rubbish sticking out. Sometimes it was covered better than others,


but you, you knew what it was. When the dumper trucks left the


yard, what happened? They went out and the only place


they went was either across to Campsie Sand Gravel or up to the


dump. The "dump" is a disused quarry,


owned by Paul Doherty, on the same side of the road as City Waste and


accessed through the shared gate. Our source says you could not miss


the trucks coming and going between the two companies.


From what I seen, it was going on every day. There were dump trucks


going every day, bar the days that NIEA was there.


The NIEA is the Environment Agency within the Department of the


Environment. It is their responsibility to keep an eye on


sites like these and prevent illegal dumping. But according to our


source, it was easy to get around the regulators. And when the


inspectors left? That was business as usual - get the


dumpers going. I had managed to track down another


worker from inside City Waste who claimed to have witnessed rubbish


from the company actually being illegally buried in Paul Doherty's


quarries. I wanted to hear in detail his account of what he saw and Pawel


agreed to be interviewed, in Poland's second city, Krakow.


TRANSLATION: I was a witness, I have basically seen it happening. Plus,


everybody was talking about it. It was basically shredded waste.


Domestic waste, food, plastic bottles - anything you can find in


any waste, basically. We have been told the site manager


in charge of co-ordinating the dumping operation at City Waste was


also Polish - this man, Radoslaw Dudzic, also known as Radek. Gerry


Farmer and Gerry O'Malley were company directors, but our sources


have told us that Radek was given a free hand to direct the Polish


workers. So Radek coordinated the dumping?


He told the people what to do. They didn't do anything without him


telling them what to do. He was the one in charge. He was the one who


was responsible for most of the things going on on site, And the


people he was employing, all of them were Polish people.


According to workers, instead of being processed properly, vast


quantities of waste would simply vanish from the site overnight.


At the end of the week, when you left, the shed would have been full


of rubbish. And you come back in on a Monday, there would have been


about half the rubbish gone. But waste was hidden in other ways


on the site, too. We have obtained a copy of the notice issued to City


Waste when their licence was revoked in June. It reveals that the site


itself is effectively built on waste. Tens of thousands of tonnes


of were hidden in different parts of the site, beneath bales, behind


sheds and even used to construct banks at the edge of the yard.


Spotlight understands that the NIEA asked Gerry Farmer whether he


noticed these banks growing around him. He insists that he did not. Our


ex-workers claim the illegal dumping was an open secret. How much


knowledge do you think that the management had about what was going


on? They knew everything. They knew


where the rubbish was going and what was going on.


Gerry Farmer was there all, all the time. The more He was, he was one of


the first ones in the yards in the morning and one of the last to leave


at night. Than The amount of cameras they had over the place.. They say


they do not know what was going on. It is lies.


Is it possible that Gerry Farmer and Gerry O'Malley were not aware of the


illegal operation on site? I think, no. I think they knew. I


think they must have known. We tried to speak to Radek Dudzic,


Gerry Farmer and Gerry O'Malley about their actions at City Waste.


Radek did not respond to our e-mails or letters. Sources say he has left


the country and is building a new house in Poland. Company directors


Gerry Farmer and Gerry O'Malley told us, via their solicitor, that they


could not comment, due to the ongoing investigation. In fact,


there is no legal reason as to why they cannot speak to us I mean, they


can if they want to, so I am just coming up to Gerry Farmer's house.


He lives in Donegal, just across the border.There is no response at the


door. If there is someone in, they are not answering. So, I am going to


leave another letter for Gerry Farmer, which is just one in a long


list we have sent to him. Gerry Farmer's car was parked at his gate.


A pair of workman's boots lay just inside the front door and there were


fresh footprints in the snow. We're just on our way now down to the


South Armagh border now where Gerry O'Malley lives. Let's see if he will


speak with us. Hello? Good morning. Alys Harte from BBC Spotlight. I'd


just like to ask you a few questions please. The lights at the house have


just gone out so I'm not sure we're going to get a response. We've


written letters and emails to him asking questions about Mobuoy Road.


We haven't had any answers to our questions. It doesn't look like they


want to speak with us. What happened at Mobuoy Road has serious


implications for all of us. Since its closure, the DOE has been


cleaning up the City Waste site in an effort to prevent potential


pollutants from reaching the river. When rainwater seeps through dumps


like this, gases and bacteria from the decomposing waste dissolve in


the water. This highly toxic run-off, known as leachate, can then


contaminate streams and rivers. Since the investigation started,


pollution has been discovered in this tributary which runs just


beside where City Waste used to operate. Dean Blackwood has been


fishing the River Faughan for years. This is my river. I've grown up on


it since I suppose 45, 50 years, I remember my father brought me out


here and I learned to fish. Now you can see I'm bringing my sun out to


fish. I hope some day he will bring his children but to the river. I


think it's just something that's always been in me, just sitting with


a stick on a line on a hook and lemon curd sandwiches, that was just


that was my river and it still is my river. Dean believes the planning


authorities let Paul Doherty off the hook. Oh! I lost him. Doherty


quarried into his land here along the river for over a decade. These


quarries needed planning permission. Which Doherty didn't have. He may be


a keen fisherman, but Dean also wears another hat. Up until March of


last year, he was a Principal Planning Officer at the DOE. Since


his early retirement, he's taken a special interest in what happened


here at Mobuoy Road, and how huge quarries have operated for years


here with no planning permission whatsoever. They are quarrying


without permission. And it is important to realise at this stage


that planning law does not forbid that as such. It is these


unauthorised quarried holes which have become home to huge amounts of


illegal waste. The problem, I suppose, has been that they have


been allowed to continue to operate and quarry for a period of around 11


years, or possibly more. Do you think that without these


unauthorised holes in the ground, do you think that the illegal dumping


would have happened? It couldn't have happened, no, it couldn't have


happened. In fact, 60% of all current quarry operations in


Northern Ireland have no planning permission. Dean thinks the Planning


Department has a lot to answer for at Mobuoy Road. By operating that


policy of not taking action against unauthorised development, it clearly


leaves the department complicit in the damage that's being caused here


and permanent threat that is now being posed to our river. The


Planning Department says unauthorised mineral extraction is


of concern to it, but suggested we ask the quarry industry why it was


so common. They say it places a strain on existing staff resources


but are restructuring to allocate more resources to enforcement. They


fully accept that a lack of joined-up thinking between planning


and the Environment Agency meant they failed to deal with this


illegal activity effectively. But it wasn't only planning who took their


eye off the ball at Mobuoy Road. A recent independent report


commissioned by the Minister into the failings of the DOE in this case


found that both planners and the site regulators failed to do their


job. The author Chris Mills found that lax planning provided holes in


the ground that were then exploited, and a regulator that wasn't looking


closely enough. Spotlight has uncovered evidence that shows that


directors from both companies should have been on the department's radar.


Paul Doherty was prosecuted by the Department for pollution arising


from illegal dumping at Mobuoy Road in 2000. This file shows


investigators found a dead calf, car exhausts, tyres and computer screens


dumped at the site and described the pollution as "very serious" and of


"high severity". Gerry Farmer and Gerry O'Malley were convicted in


2012 for illegally storing over half a million tyres. In both cases, the


prosecutions were taken by the DOE. Dr Ciara Brennan is an environmental


lawyer with expertise in this area. Regardless of who is responsible for


burying waste at Mobuoy Road, she thinks the current system makes


illegal dumping attractive to criminals. Landfill tax has


gradually increased over the last few years. It is now at about ?72 a


tonne. It is designed to be a disincentive for companies and waste


management companies to get rid of their waste by landfill. But at the


same time, it is also an incentive for people to try to avoid paying


any landfill tax whatsoever. There are very big incentives for


companies to try to avoid paying landfill tax, it is considered an


overhead. But whenever you come to a site like this where we know there


is over half a million tonnes of illegally dumped waste, that is half


a million tonnes of waste that have not been subject to landfill tax.


And that is tens of millions of pounds the public purse has missed


out on. And that is before we take into account what they were paid by


the council to dispose of the waste in the first place. Exactly. So they


have essentially profited twice. When the gates of City Waste were


dramatically closed last summer, it came as a shock to many. But it


shouldn't have been a shock to the Environment Agency. Under Freedom of


Information, Spotlight has obtained paperwork from site visits by the


Agency for the last seven years. These inspection reports show that


the Agency knew for years that this was a problematic site. City Waste


broke the same rules over and over. And the Agency's response was weak.


Any written warnings given by inspectors seemed to fall on deaf


ears and ultimately did little to bring the company into line. This


was a site heaving with compliance issues. These photos show how waste


got so out of hand, the company had to build a shed around the rubbish.


It reached crisis point in 2010 when a major fire occurred on site. --


three major fires occurred on site. E-mails between the Environment


Agency and City Waste catalogue a series of compliance demands from


the NIEA and a series of excuses from City Waste. I am in the USA and


the compliance manager is on vacation. Unfortunately due to me


getting delayed by a hurricane, this didn't happen. In March 2011, the


NIEA are beginning to run out of patience. I would warn you this


level of tolerance is now nearing an end. The new boss at the Agency


agrees that more could and should have been done. We can't argue that


we didn't do a good enough job here. There is a serious level of illegal


dumping, there is a track record of noncompliance at the waste facility


site. We do need to fix our system. But was it good enough in this


instance? I wasn't here at the time. But you are in charge now. I am in


charge now. What I am doing is looking at this case. We will take


advice from the Mills Report and we need to get tougher and better on


those who are breaking the law. It wasn't until Spring 2012 that the


truth of the illegal dump began to surface. A planning official noticed


methane gas actually bubbling up through a disused quarry - a sign


that decomposing rubbish was fermenting underground. But the


Mills Report listed a string of opportunities missed by the


department going back years, that could have led to its discovery much


earlier. During our investigation we


uncovered a letter to the NIEA from a government agency back in 2008.


The letter clearly warned of the possibility of material being


shredded and disposed of on site. This should have been a major red


flag to the authorities. I asked the author of the letter,


John McCartney, of the Loughs Agency, what he had expected to


happen. I suppose in an ideal world an investigation undertaken, a


subsequent prosecution or a response to say there wasn't an issue, that


we were misinformed or our concerns were unjustified. The NIEA says is


has no record of having received the Loughs Agency letter. This is a


government body telling the agency that they suspect that there is


illegal dumping and shredding of waste, which is exactly what


happened. I can't change the past. I know we need to do better. That is


very clear. John is concerned about pollution already detected in a


tributary that flows into the River Faughan. There is a real fear that


we could wake up one morning and find the fish population have been


wiped out in the river. That is the absolute worst case scenario, but in


the absence of any real information, we have to consider that as a


possibility. Ciara Brennan says whoever the illegal operators might


have been, she is shocked at the response of the Department, given


the combination of warning signs. It amazes me that no meaningful


enforcement action was taken before 2012. And the fact that these


reports and these warnings go back almost ten years is highly


concerning because essentially the illegal operator was able to


continue to make money, to make huge profits and continue polluting and


harming the environment without really any ramifications, despite


all of these warning signs for so many years. The head of Friends of


the Earth says the DOE is dysfunctional. Here we have a


classic case that should have been predicted, where strong agents


within the system were calling for action for many years and those


agents within the system were neutralised or completely ignored. I


think these things are inevitable when we have what I would describe


as a complete breakdown in environmental regulation in Northern


Ireland. We'll probably never know all the


secrets of the dump at Mobuoy Road. The notice that closed City Waste


said suspected asbestos was found on site. We've spoken to sources who


say they saw what they believe was chemical waste and medical waste


dumped on site. The truth is, no-one knows. Since the licence was revoked


back in June, the NIEA has been investigating Gerry O'Malley, Gerry


Farmer, and quarry boss Paul Doherty and his wife Margaret. But in a


remarkable twist to the story, Spotlight has discovered that within


months of the beginning of the NIEA investigation, Paul Doherty sold one


of the quarries that harboured a lot of the illegal waste. The law says


that if you own the land, you're responsible for any illegal dumping


on it. A Polish man, Waldemar Piecki, bought the contaminated


field for ?26,000 in November 2012 - lands Paul Doherty had himself paid


?200,000 for in 2009. It's unclear as to whether or not Mr Piecki, who


is said to be a vagrant, knew the land contained illegal waste before


he bought it. Paul Doherty refuses to answer any of our questions. Like


Gerry Farmer and Gerry O'Malley, he strenuously denies all allegations


of criminality or that his actions resulted in environmental harm,


public health risk or implications for the public purse. His solicitor


cites the ongoing criminal investigation as a reason not to


comment, but there's no legal reason why he can't speak to us if he wants


to. Hello, Mr Doherty. My name is Alys


Harte. I'm a reporter from BBC Spotlight. I'd just like to ask you


how half a million tonnes of illegal waste ended up in your land on the


Mobuoy Road. I've nothing to say to you. You can go and speak to my


solicitor, please. How did half a million tonnes of illegal waste end


up in your land? Would you go and speak to my solicitor, please? We


have done. I've written letters to you for months, Mr Doherty. Look,


would you please leave the golf course. You're standing on a green.


That's a putting green. Mr Doherty... We're all wearing golf


shoes. You're not. Please get off the golf course. You must be able to


explain how the waste ended up in your land. Mr Doherty... Would you


please leave this golf course? Do we have to call the guards? If we have


to, that's what we'll have to do. Would you like to talk to us off the


golf course, Mr Doherty? Please leave the golf course. It's clear


that lack of effective regulation played a major role in events at


Mobuoy Road. The NIEA and Derry Council both have a responsibility


to make sure that when it comes to waste management, people stick to


the rules. How waste is disposed of in future has been mapped out by a


group of seven North West councils. And just three miles from the Mobuoy


Road, plans are under way to build a large-scale plant that would turn


waste into gas. But the technology is controversial and some locals are


petitioning against the plant. I'm not just coming for Hallowe'en! Up


for grabs is a ?500 million contract - the biggest of its kind in


Northern Ireland's history. A consortium of companies, including


Derry-based bin collectors Brickkiln Waste Ltd, has been declared


"preferred bidder". When we spoke to local councillor and former Derry


Mayor Shaun Gallagher, he was leading the charge for the new


plant. Throughout his career he has taken a special interest in waste


management. He has represented local government on waste matters at the


Executive, and until recently advised the Minister as vice chair


of the Northern Ireland Waste Programme Board. I live here, where


the plantains. -- where the plant is. I am across the river from it. I


am not going to poison myself, I am not going to poison my children, and


if somebody can come up with a better plan, we are all ears. But


what do we know about Brickkiln? Spotlight has discovered that the


company has been involved in a legal dispute with Derry Council over


accusations of overcharging. We've seen a leaked legal opinion which


details that Derry City Council received an anonymous tip-off from a


whistle-blower back in 2011. According to the document, the


council commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations,


which concluded that Brickkiln appeared to be charging the council


for waste that was not theirs. The leaked document details how CCTV


footage appeared to show Brickkiln lorries arriving in their yard


already partially loaded with waste and being topped up with Derry City


Council waste. It says they wrote to Brickkiln accusing them of passing


off waste from other sources as theirs. In the barrister's opinion,


the evidence was sufficient to terminate the contract. Derry City


Council officials declined to be interviewed for this programme, and


claimed not yet to be in a position to release the investigation report


to Spotlight.? But in writing, they told us that very serious


consideration was given to terminating the contract with


Brickkiln and that they had referred the matter to the police and to the


NIEA. The council say that no criminal activity could be


determined, and in the end, they chose to settle the case with


Brickkiln. But the council did confirm that it withheld ?30,000


initially billed by Brickkiln because the company was unable to


provide satisfactory documentation for the invoices in question. I


asked Shaun Gallagher about the council's legal dispute with


Brickkiln. I know for a fact that legal dispute was settled out of


court. Derry Council had evidence that Brickkiln was charging for


waste that was not theirs. I am not aware of that. As elected members,


we haven't got any of that detail. You haven't been told about the... I


am not aware of it, no, I haven't. Well, Derry Council commissioned the


report. I am not going into it because we have very strict


guidelines given to us as elected members as far as the North West bid


is concerned and we can't comment until that process is processed and


basically if you put those questions to them... I know, but you should


know this, you are on the waste management group.


Shaun Gallagher was the Derry City representative on the coalition of


councils who decided the half a billion pound contract. Derry


Council has confirmed to Spotlight that all elected members were


advised of the findings of the independent investigation. The legal


dispute lasted at least a year and a half,?and an argument about


arbitration ended up in the High Court. There, the judge referred to


the council's contention that Brickkiln had engaged in possibly


criminal acts - an allegation that Brickkiln denied. At the end of the


day, I am not aware of any of that. Should you have been made aware of


it? I am not going to comment, on record or anything on it. But why


not, if this is the company that is involved in the consortium? You know


what is happening here? Is this an ambush, is this an ambush on myself?


No. Well, I feel like I am being ambushed here, so we will probably


end this now. But you are the Derry City Council representative, that is


why I am asking. No. We will just end it now, OK, thank you. After the


interview, Shaun Gallagher wrote to Spotlight and asked us not to


broadcast any part of it. He claimed the questions were not what he


expected. He says he now accepts he must have missed the detail of the


report given by the council about the Brickkiln dispute and puts that


down to human air. -- mistake. Brickkiln Waste Ltd has three sister


companies based at their headquarters on Heather Road. The


director of all four companies is a man called Thomas McGlinchey. During


our investigation, Spotlight has discovered that one of those


companies, Brickkiln Civil Engineering Ltd, was convicted of


illegal dumping in Donegal last year. The company pleaded guilty to


the offences, which took place on the Inishowen Penninsula. Brickkiln


Civil Engineering Ltd also had a 2006 conviction under the Waste and


Contaminated Land Order. We wrote to the director of Brickkiln, Tommy


McGlinchey, asking him about the dispute with Derry City Council. His


solicitor wrote back and said Brickkiln Waste Ltd had to issue


proceedings in the High Court against Derry Council and that this


action was settled by the parties in 2013 by the payment of a substantial


sum to Brickkiln. They also said that they could not comment on the


ongoing procurement as the project has not yet closed. We asked them


about the convictions on both sides of the border and whether they had


informed the councils and the North West management group about them.


The solicitor confirmed the convictions but said they related to


Brickkiln Civil Engineering Ltd, which "is not part of any


consortium, nor has it tendered to the North West Management Group".


What they didn't say, of course, is that the two companies both have a


director called Thomas McGlinchey and are based at the same address at


Heather Road. We asked the North West Waste Management Group if they


were aware of Brickkiln Civil Engineering's convictions. In a


statement they said, "Before final award of contract, we would complete


a considerable number of further due diligence checks" and "we are making


inquiries in relation to the events relating to Brickkiln" and that "it


would be inappropriate to comment further until fully appraised of the


facts". What's clear is that we need to learn lessons from how scenic


countryside around Mobuoy Road has become home to one of Europe's


biggest illegal dumps. Taxpayers can expect to cough up in the region of


?100 million to clear out contaminated lands at Mobuoy Road.


As the Department of the Environment considers criticisms of its


regulation, Derry is left to ponder the unknown, buried underneath its




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