An investigation has been launched into the illegal dumping of hundreds of tyres at a bonfire site in Larne’s Craigyhill estate.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency is trying to determine the source of the tyres, which are currently being used in the construction of an Eleventh night bonfire.
East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan has expressed concern that businesses are using bonfire sites such as the one at Craigyhill as a means of disposing of old tyres.
And he has called on Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to take “immediate action”.
The Sinn Fein representative told the Times: “Burning tyres is a breach of the Clean Air Order and dumping them is a breach of the Pollution Control Order.
“Recently enforcement officers from NIEA pursued and interviewed farmers under caution because they moved tyres on their farms, using them to cover silage pits.
“Will the Minister now ensure the same scrutiny is applied to those who dumped tyres for use in a bonfire?
“Not only is burning tyres illegal, but it is also damaging to the environment and is a potential health hazard to both people and animals.
“Tyres release more than 100 different chemicals into the air when they are burnt. Many of these chemicals can cause cancer and respiratory diseases.
“It is also worrying that the vast majority of these tyres appear to be lorry or bus tyres, which are not easily available to members of the public.”
A spokesperson for NIEA said Mr Durkan was committed to working closley with local councils – which take lead responsibilty for bonfire management – in a bid to reduce and ultimately eliminate the burning of tyres.
The spokesperson added: “NIEA will of course use their enforcement powers in support of councils where they can.
“While tyres are waste, it is practically and legally very difficult to use environmental legislation as a means to control the use of tyres on bonfire sites when they are placed there with the agreement of some of the community.
“NIEA’s approach is to work with others to progressively reduce the burning of tyres on bonfires.
“In this case at Craigyhill estate in Larne , NIEA is aware of and assessing opportunities to determine the source of the tyres and will take action, where possible.”
It is estimated that 1.8 million used tyres are generated in Northern Ireland every year; the same number as there are people living in the province.