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Fuel laundering task force Bill for Dail as pollution extent revealed

A Bill aimed at establishing the first ever cross-border task force aimed at tackling fuel laundering will go before the Dail on Wednesday.

It will be introduced by the Cavan and Monaghan TD Brendan Smith, a former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in the Republic.

It comes after figures showed 61 rivers had been polluted by cancer-causing toxins associated with fuel laundering over the past three years.

And, of those 61, 37 of them were to be found within the South Armagh area.

Incidents of such pollution were recorded in the Creggan River, Cully Water, Fane River, Flurry River and Forkhill River in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Other rivers in the area have also been polluted, as has the Callan River in Armagh and the River Blackwater.

The figures were revealed by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan in response to a question from West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey.

His question tabled was: “To ask the Minister of the Environment to detail any rivers polluted by fuel launderers, including fish kills as a result of the pollution, in each of the last five years.”

The response provided information for the past three years, as Minister Durkan reported the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s old water pollution incidents database did not provide data in a readily accessible form.

The Minister did confirm that no fish kills had occurred as a result of fuel laundering during these three years.

Responding to the information provided, Mr Hussey said: “It has already been well-established that fuel laundering is a major problem, lining the pockets of criminal gangs, denying tens of millions of pounds of revenue to the Exchequer and polluting rivers and waterways.

“There has recently been a great deal of concern about the impact of carcinogenic waste being released into waterways in the border area as a by-product of this criminal activity and that this constitutes a threat to public health on both sides of the border.

“The information received from the Environment Minister in answer to my Assembly question highlights the shocking scale of pollution caused by fuel launderers to our waterways.

“Fourteen of the exiting 26 council areas are affected and the situation is particularly bad in Newry and Mourne, where six rivers have been affected for three successive years

“It is absolutely essential that the authorities on both sides of the border take effective action to close this illegal and lucrative industry down for good and take robust action to ensure prosecutions and convictions for those responsible.”

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