Street cleaning contractor sentence overturned

A conviction of a Limerick agricultural contractor over water pollution has been overturned on appeal.

Last October, Brendan McGrath, from Knockainey, pleaded not guilty to two counts of offenses under the Water Pollution Act in Kilmallock Court.

The case was taken up by Limerick City and County Council, represented by attorney Will Leahy. Mr McGrath was defended by David O’Regan BL and instructed by counsel John Cooke.

After a lengthy contested hearing, Judge Patricia Harney found Mr McGrath guilty of allowing pollutants to enter water bodies, but not guilty of failing to report it because he “didn’t believe” he had done anything wrong.

She asked him to pay the council’s costs of 2,000 euros. The maximum fine a judge can impose for water pollution is 3,000 euros. Because of Mr McGrath’s good record, Judge Harney imposed a “more realistic” fine of €250.

The crux of the case involved Mr McGrath, who was cleaning up a street after spreading manure for a client in the Herbertstown area. The council and a witness claimed that while the street was being cleaned, manure was washed down a gutter and into a stream.

Mr. McGrath and his brother Seamus both denied this. They said that when spreading manure, you don’t drive on the manure and that drips from a manure spreader cannot spill onto the road because they are “totally waterproof and sealed”.

They said they used water to sweep clay – picked up by tractor tires – off the road.

Following the judgment of the judge at Kilmallock Court, recognition was settled on appeal.

Mr Cooke, counsel for Mr McGrath, confirmed that they had referred the matter to the District Court.

“The appeal was allowed with the consent (of Limerick City and County Council). The guilty verdict has been overturned,” Mr Cooke said. On the day the council agreed to allow the appeal as the council’s expenses had been reimbursed.

The McGrath family said: “We are delighted that the conviction has been overturned. Looking back, we still believe that cleaning the streets was the right thing to do, because we always do. If you don’t clean up the street you could be fined for leaving it dirty, so what are you supposed to do?”

At the time of writing there was no reply from the Limerick Council.

“Spills on public roads are a matter for the municipalities”

That Independent Farming contacted the Local Government Management Agency, a government agency that provides a range of professional services to local government, to outline what farmers and contractors should do when public roads become dirty while farming.

In his reply it was said that there are no national guidelines for farmers on this subject. “In general, spills on public roads are a matter for local authorities, who have enforcement powers under the Roads Act 1993.

“When there is a spill of manure on a road, the priority is to contain the spill to prevent contamination of local waters. This may require the spilled material to be removed and taken to an approved facility for treatment,” it said. Street cleaning contractor sentence overturned

Fry Electronics Team

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