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Council still refusing to take action on asbestos

By Kieran Hughes

A Newtownabbey residents group who took on the responsibility of moving asbestos piping, illegally dumped in a local street, have been told that their local Council will not be be removing the hazardous material.

In the last week of February Colin Denvir from Bawnmore Residents Association used protective gloves to move the piping from Dandy Street into a disused fish factory nearby in an effort to keep it out of contact with children.

But despite pleas from the Association to Newtownabbey Borough Council to remove the materials, the Council insist the matter is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Three weeks on from the Association moving the piping it is still lying in the factory and the group fear that young people from the area, who have been accessing the site, may not realise its dangers.

Newtownabbey Borough Council do not own the site and don’t have responsibility for it, with materials in the factory the responsibility of the property’s owner. However, the property is now owned by the South’s ‘bad bank’ Nama.

Seamus Kelly, chairperson of the Association, said the priority is the removal of the piping and has again appealed to the Council to help them.

“The asbestos piping should have been removed right away,” he said. “We don’t care who removes it and regardless of whose responsibility it is there is a serious safety concern there. Kids have been going in to the site and coming in to contact with it. Kids being kids they will smash things up and that is when the problems with the asbestos can start.

“Flytipping is an ongoing problem at the site, but we are very concerned about the asbestos,” he said.

A spokesman for the NI Environment Agency said they currently have neither the ‘legal power nor resources’ to remove waste.

“Councils also have powers in waste legislation and under public health law to not only require the responsible party to remove waste, but to act in default.

“NIEA can issue a statutory notice requiring the keeper of controlled waste to take it to a legal facility for disposal.”

They added that in general asbestos is safe if not disturbed or broken and that any activity that could cause fibres to be releases is “best avoided”.

“NIEA would not encourage members of the public to touch or attempt to move suspected waste of any description.”

A spokeswoman for Newtownabbey Borough Council said only that they have raised the issue with the NIEA and the NIEA are now investigating the matter.


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