Just because I love pondering questions about personal responsibility, here’s the latest one that’s come to my attention. The Daily Telegraph has a report on an Earl, that is one those filthy rich heriditary nobles who make the U.K. look so anachronistic, who is being sued by his local council for having one million old tyres and over a thousand tonnes of shredded rubber on his land. The problem is that the tyres were dumped on the Earl’s lands without his knowledge or his permission. However, because the unscrupulous businessman who was responsible for dumping them and who has already been convicted and jailed for two months back in 2002 doesn’t have the money to properly dispose of the tyres, the local council is forcing the Earl to pay to clean the mess.
It seems that the tyres were dumped there quite a while back and the council issued an order back in 2004 to the Earl to dispose of them in an environmentally safe manner and the deadline was set for 2006. Since then, the Earl’s estate has managed to dispose of two thirds of the tyres at their cost but with over 350,000 old tyres on the property, the council has threatened to prosecute the Earl for not complying with its order. As you might expect, dealing with this much trash costs a considerable amount of money. While it is true that the Earl can afford it, should he bear that cost when he was not responsible for dumping the trash in the first place?
The article could do with some additional details but there seems to be plenty of blame to spread around and no easy answers. My gut instincts are that the council should pay the costs of cleaning up the tyres but should try to recover money from the parties actually responsible for creating the mess in the first place. Even if the actual businessman who dumped the tyres doesn’t have the money, it’s obvious that he was paid by someone to dispose of the tyres. It’s likely that he snagged the contract with an unrealistically low bid without having any intention to do the work in the proper way and the company or companies involved accepted his bid and paid the money just to make the problem go away. If this is the case, it might be possible to sue those companies for hiring an unlicensed contractor in the first place. If no money is forthcoming, then some jailtime, considerably more serious than a mere two months, might be in order for all those involved in the dumping.