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EPA Issues Guidance on Emissions to Groundwater


The EPA has issued guidance on the licensing of emissions to groundwater. This comes on foot of the requirements of the European Communities Environmental Objectives (Groundwater) Regulations, 2010 (S.I. No. 9 of 2010) (Groundwater Regulations). Prior to these Regulations the applicable instrument was usually a Section 4 licence under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977-1990. However the approach to the licensing of discharges to ground has been extremely inconsistent.

The guidance is titled ‘Guidance on the Authorisation of Discharges to Groundwater’ and is intended for EPA and Local Authority personnel who may be involved in authorising discharges. However it will also be particularly useful for those intending to seek discharge authorisations. The following activities are covered;

  • Small scale discharges from on-site waste water treatment systems (OSWTSs) - septic tanks and package treatment plants; 
  • Discharges to ground from larger waste water works, including integrated constructed wetland systems; 
  • IPPC and other industrial/commercial releases;
  • Infiltration of urban stormwater through infiltration basins (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems); and
  • Escape of leachate from landfills (beyond engineered and/or geological barriers). 

While landspreading associated with agriculture is undoubtedly the activity with the most significant impact on groundwater quality in Ireland, the guidance does not cover this activity and the reader is directed to the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 610 of 2010). The relevant documents can be downloaded here