A volunteer tackles one of the larger pieces dumped in Ballard
Ballard Bog, just outside Tullamore town between the townlands of Derrygolan and Ballard is home to a gravel track, winding through the middle of the bog, tha has become is a very popular walkway for young and old since CoVid 19 lockdown and 5km travel restrictions started last March.
People enjoy the beauty and aroma of natural foliage such as heather and ferns throughout the year, as well as the shade and shelter of mature trees on a breezy day. Walkers might even be lucky enough to see a family of dear cross the high bank.
A unique natural landscape to be cherished, but its convenient location, off the Tullamore Bypass, has resulted in Ballard Bog becoming a dumping ground for domestic rubbish.
This illegal dumping is more shocking as the local dump, Derryclure Waste and Recycling Centre is a stone's throw away on the Portlaoise road.
Much of the rubbish being dumped is recyclable so could be brought either to the landfill for a €3 charge or like food/drink cans and glass could be recycled free at numerous bottle banks around the town.
What gives people the right to think it is acceptable to dump their household rubbish in a drain or bog hole?
Having lived all his life in the area local man Andrew Whittaker has witnessed first hand the desecration of the bog.
Locked barriers were erected at each entrance in an attempt to prevent dumping but this has not stopped it.
Bags of rubbish could be seen dumped along the road way, piles of masonry left in bog holes, mattresses, couches, tyres, TV’s general household waste strewn everywhere. Bags of rubbish were left disintegrating in seven and eight foot deep drains blocked them, preventing the natural flow of water.
Andrew became increasingly disgusted by the persistent dumping and filth on the bog. He decided it was time to do something about it. He contacted Oliver Bryant, Offaly Litter Warden to see what could be done.
The litter warden provided refuse bags and gloves, Andrew and his son Brian began gathering and bagging rubbish in the evenings. Other local walkers/neighbours saw the work being done and offered to help.
Families mainly from the Derrybeg-Derrygolan road worked in socially distanced groups on different sections of the bog, gathering rubbish.
As the work began it became evident very quickly that there was much more rubbish dumped than first thought. Five evenings work only tipped the iceberg, mechanical assistance would be needed to remove the amount and weight of the rubbish dumped in the drains.
Seamus Walsh, Plant Hire, Derrybeg provided a Hy-mac, and his brother John, and family members worked a full day last Saturday to extract rubbish from drains bog holes and buried pits.
A total of six tipper-trailer loads of rubbish were collected and brought to Derryclure Dump. Among the largest items were a chest freezer, several mattresses, three seater couches and a bath.
Andrew would like to thank everyone who helped gather rubbish from the bog over the last week especially those who helped out on Saturday.
Offaly County Council are now in the process of erecting CCTV cameras, to prevent future dumping.
The initiative has been welcomed by local councillor Declan Harvey who paid tribute to Andrew and the other volunteers who carried out the extensive clean-up.
He also thanked Offaly County Council who provided free passes to the volunteers to allow them dispose of the rubbish on Saturday at the landfill.
“I was delighted to be part of this operation which was carried out under the council's anti-dumping initiative,” said Cllr Harvey.
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