A councillor who came upon a pile of flaking asbestos in a quiet country lane has called for tougher sanctions against the perpetrators of fly-tipping.
And Scottish Borders Council, which spent more than £1,000 disposing of the dangerous material, has this week asked the public to report any incidents of illegal dumping.
Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East) made his discovery while walking his dogs on the back road between Ashiestiel and Walkerburn, which runs alongside the River Tweed, last Thursday.
“It looked like a bag of builders’ rubble with plaster board scattered around and, as I have done too many times, I reported it to the council the following day,” said Mr Logan.
The nature of his discovery was revealed at Monday night’s meeting of Clovenfords Community Council by Jason Hedley, SBC’s neighbourhood services officer.
He described how staff had gone to the site and identified the material as asbestos. As a result, a firm of specialists had to be called in to safely remove the pile – at a cost to the council of over £1,000 for a single fly-tipping incident.
SBC does not hold cost figures for dealing with illegal dumping as it is considered part of the daily operations of its neighbourhood services division.
But figures obtained by The Southern suggest it is a considerable strain on the public purse.
In 2013/14, the local authority had to deal with no fewer than 382 fly-tipping incidents across the region – up by around 40 per cent on the previous year’s total of 285.
The haul included 18 animal carcasses, 44 white and electrical goods, 111 items of furniture, 31 tyres, 112 domestic bin bags and three chemical drums. Most of the dumping took place in laybys or outside farm gates.
A spokesperson for SBC told us yesterday: “Fly-tipping in any form is unacceptable, but the illegal dumping of asbestos in particular is a costly and potentially dangerous action which could jeopardise the environment and present risks to humans and animals.
“We would appeal to the public not to carry out such acts, with anyone caught facing fines of up to £40,000 or six months’ imprisonment. Members of the public can play their part by reporting any incidents on publicly- owned land to the council.”
Despite the potentially-harsh sanctions, a recent Freedom of Information response revealed that just 10 people suspected of fly-tipping had been reported to SBC’s legal department over the last three years and not a single case had resulted in a successful court prosecution.
“With so many community facilites in place for taking rubbish, there is simply no excuse for fly-tipping which is such a blight on our countryside, our environment and our tourism,” said Mr Logan.
“This single incident shows it is also draining the council’s resources, so not only do we want the cooperation of the public, we also need much tougher penalties which are properly enforced.”