The retired director of a waste management company has been found guilty of three counts relating to the operation of an illegal landfill site.
Tony Dean (70) of Woodhaven, Milltown, Dublin was found guilty by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Monday of offences contrary to the Waste Management Act, 1996.
He had pleaded not guilty to two charges that he, as then director of Nephin Trading Ltd, disposed of or undertook the recovery of waste at a facility in Kerdiffstown, Naas, Co Kildare otherwise than in accordance with the waste licence then in force, between October 2003 to September 2006 and, separately, between September 2006 and November 2008.
He had also denied a third charge that he held or recovered waste in a manner likely to cause environmental pollution at the Kerdiffistown site between October 2003 and November 2008.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on all three counts after 58 minutes of deliberations. The case was adjourned to December 12 for sentencing.
After a four-week trial, lawyers for the Director of Public Prosecutions and defending counsel made closing speeches last week summarising their cases to the jury.
Dean Kelly SC, prosecuting, said that between 2003 and 2008 a “mountain of waste” was deposited on a 25-acre site in Kerdiffstown in a way that breached two licences issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October 2003 and in September 2006.
He said the licence did not allow for the waste to be stored in the way it accumulated and that the waste accumulated in a way that caused environmental pollution. He said the defence case was it was being stored in order to be eventually recycled. He said the expert evidence during the trial was that the site was “an active landfill” with an estimated annual 4.8 million gallons of leachate – contaminated liquid generated when rainwater moves through a solid waste disposal site.
“This site walks, talks and smells like an illegal landfill,” Mr Kelly said. He said the activities of the company showed complete contempt of the licence issued to it and of the people living in the area and that it was a flagrant abuse of the waste laws.
He said that Dean was “the cog at the centre of the wheel, the entire nest of companies that is the Dean Waste empire”. He said the evidence was Dean was the kind of boss who was “on site and got his boots and hands dirty” and “knew exactly what was moving through his business”.
Barry White SC, defending, submitted to the jury that there was no evidence of negligence on the part of his client. He said his client was a visionary who had the ambition to buy an existing dump and set up a recycling operation there.
He said in the mid 1990s “we had no recycling” and his client was one of the first, if not the first, who believed in moving from landfill to the recovery of waste. He said that Dean “had a dream” of setting up a recycling facility and had the ability to invent and design the machinery to put that into place.
He said the Waste Management Act in 1996 changed the way things operated and his client hired someone “at the top of his profession in waste management” to advise him on the law. The court heard Dean hired Dr Ted Nealon, a former employee of the EPA, as an expert to advise him.
Mr White said his client was a simple man with dyslexia but that he “wanted to fly and Dr Nealon was his pilot”.
He said that the site in Naas was bought by his client and was an existing “dump”, which was full at one end with landfill and half full at the other. He said his client’s vision was to re-use the site by recycling the waste.
He said the EPA could see the benefit of what Dean and his company were proposing to do from the point of view of waste management and the environment. He said this was evidenced by the issuing of a second licence in 2006. He said there was a “tacit approach” and a “tacit agreement” from directors of the EPA into what the company was doing and that this was not “a fly-by-night operation” by any stretch.
Mr Kelly said there was a defence suggestion that during an “infamous meeting” between the EPA and Nephin Trading in September 2003, EPA officials gave a “shady permission” to the company to dump on the site and that the EPA would “turn a blind eye”.
Mr Kelly said this never happened, it would never happen and that it would ultimately be a corrupt way of operating. He said that under cross-examination, Dean told the trial that he left the meeting with the understanding that “if we comply with the licence the EPA had no intention of closing us down”.
Referring to Mr Dean’s defence that “all was destined for recycling or recovery”, he said “if you told that story to a horse, he’d give you a kick”.
He told the jury that they saw what the waste looked like, a large amount had been shredded “bringing it end of the line” and it was all “piled one layer on top of another, one layer of rotting waste, and then another later on top of that”.
Counsel asked the jury to recall the evidence of a number of witnesses who lived close to the site and who were affected by “the stench” coming from it.
Mr Kelly said the evidence was that every time EPA officials visited the site over the five-year period, it was apparent to their eyes and to their nose, new waste was being deposited time and time again.
“It was bigger and more odorous and more steaming”.