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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
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Diesel Sludge

Over €1 million spent on diesel laundering cleanup in two border counties since 2018

Over half of the cost is being incurred in Louth, with over €700,000 being spent on cleanup of diesel sludge.

THE CLEANUP COST for diesel laundering in Louth and Monaghan over the last four years has cost the State over €1 million.

Figures released by the Department of Environment show the total cleanup cost of diesel laundering in both counties was €1,127,726.

Diesel laundering is the process of washing out a green dye that is placed in rebated green fuel, or marked mineral oil, to make it colourless.

The process is carried out using a bleaching agent and leaves a residue within the fuel, which can solidify when heated in an engine and cause serious damage to the internal workings of a car.

As agricultural diesel, like marked mineral oil, is subject to a lower rate of tax, those selling the laundered diesel can profit from the difference.

According to Revenue, the difference in the rate of tax is high. The Mineral Oil Tax (MOT) on diesel is €535,46 per 1,000 litres, while it is €138.17 on marked mineral oil.

This is a difference of almost 40 cent per litre of fuel.

Within the process of laundering diesel, a sludge is created that is typically dumped and left for local authorities to dispose of.

The waste is usually funnelled into large Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC’s) and then subsequently dumped.

While the amount of diesel laundering being carried out has reduced in recent years, the dumping of the sludge still poses difficulties for local authorities near the border.

A majority of the cleanup cost since 2018 has been incurred in Louth, where at least €837,919 was spent by Louth County Council on cleaning up laundering in the years since.

Since 2018, Revenue have detected seven fuel laundering plants in both Louth and Monaghan, and have seized a total of 83,500 litres of laundered diesel.

Four of these plants were located in Louth while three were in Monaghan.

In 2021, there were a total of 62 incidents of diesel laundering detected in both counties, according to the Department of the Environment.

Of these, 39 took place in Louth while another 23 took place in Monaghan.

Revenue says that their current strategy around combating fuel laundering works around supply chain reporting, a monitoring system for retailers and suppliers, tightening fuel licensing and the power to revoke or refuse licences.

In 2015 Accutrace S10 was introduced – a colourless marker that has chemical properties similar to that of diesel that makes it resistant to conventional dye-washing techniques.

This compound is required to be added to any supply of reduced rate fuel, in addition to other dyes, in both Ireland and the UK.

Funding for local authorities

The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications provides funding to local authorities to help with the cleanup of diesel sludge, with this funding being claimed by Louth and Monaghan councils regularly.

In 2021, the cost of cleaning up diesel sludge in Co Louth was €247,450, with 181 Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC’s) being recovered by Louth County Council. 

Page-1-Image-1 Louth County Council IBCs of diesel waste recovered by Louth County Council Louth County Council

In Louth County Council’s Annual Budget for 2021, Director of Operations Catherine Duff said that the dumping of diesel sludge “continues to be a problem across North Louth”.

She added that the council is working with relevant agencies, like Revenue, in tackling the issue.

There can be significant environmental impacts stemming from the dumping of diesel laundering waste, with the sludge itself being a pollutant.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Climate & Communications told The Journal that the sludge can cause “significant hydrocarbon contamination” in soils and that it can also contaminate groundwater.

“Furthermore, the acidic waste generated from other materials in this illegal process and left abandoned by diesel launderers such as sulphuric acid wash, contaminated absorbent and bleaching earth sludge is hazardous waste,” the spokesperson added.

“The illegal deposition of waste material arising from diesel laundering activities presents local authorities with major difficulties, as the task of cleaning up the material needs to be dealt with to avoid threats to the environment.”

Sinn Féin councillor in Louth, Antóin Watters told The Journal that the dumping of diesel waste is a “blight on our countryside”.

He said that he had concerns about IBC’s of diesel sludge spilling, adding that the containers are not being moved with care.

“If one of those containers spilled, it would cause untold damage,” said Watters, adding that there was an incident previously where a waste IBC was dumped next to a blue flag beach in north Louth.

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