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Clean up your act!

In Wicklow County Council v. Fenton & Ors [2002] IEHC 102 (31 July 2002) the High Court likened the owner of an illegal dump to a receiver of stolen property. Without a receiver there can be no profit in theft; without an illegal dump there can be no illegal dumping. The court accepted the principle advanced by the applicant Council that it did not have to prove negligence; that the state of mind of the Respondents was not required to be proved. The court endorsed the principle of “the polluter paysâ€?, a principle found in Council Recommendation 75/436Euratom and specifically incorporated in Section 5 of the Waste Management Act 1996.

“the polluter pays principle” means the principle set out in Council Recommendation 75/436/Euratom, ECSC, EEC of 3 March, 1975 1 regarding cost allocation and action by public authorities on environmental matters;

Under Section 26 of the Waste Management Act 1996 the Environmental Protection Agency is obliged to incorporate the “polluter paysâ€? principle into its national hazardous waste management plan.

The court found that the Respondents had been negligent on the facts and made orders for the remediation of the lands on which the illegal dump was found.

Consequently, liability under the Waste Management Act 1996 can be established simply by showing that there has been dumping on lands and that there is no authority for such dumping. The liability attaches to the occupier of the land; there is no need to show that the dumping took place during the period of occupation by that occupier.