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EPA reports on Local Authority Enforcement

The EPA has published its report on local authority environmental enforcement performance for 2018. The purpose of the report is to assess the performance of the 31 local authorities in 2018 and recommend actions for improvements. Local authorities play a vital role in environmental enforcement in Ireland. This includes:

  • The enforcement of compliance with Waste Management Legislation including the permitting of waste facilities, regulating unauthorised waste activities and implementation of recycling and producer responsibility initiatives;
  • The enforcement of compliance with Water Quality Legislation such as enforcement of the Good Agricultural Practices Regulations, licensing of effluent discharges from factories/hotels, enforcement of licenses and the inspection of septic tanks;
  • The enforcement of compliance with Air Quality Legislation including the Solid Fuel Regulations and compliance with fuel standards.

Local authorities develop enforcement plans annually to allocate resources where they are most needed, depending on the risk posed to the environment and what is considered a priority both locally and nationally. The local authorities submit these plans to the EPA, setting out the planned enforcement activities for the year. Twelve months later, the data on all completed activities is submitted to the EPA as well as any notable achievements and any issues impacting on performance. Using this information, along with data from other sources, the EPA has designed a framework to assist local authorities in the implementation of programmes for continual improvement in the areas of environmental enforcement and inspection. This framework was first applied in 2014, with that year acting as a baseline performance level for which subsequent years data are assessed against.

The report has shown that local authority environmental enforcement activities are increasing, and the overall performance target was reached in 2018. The activities carried out by 31 local authorities in 2018 include:

  • The regulation of more than 500 environmental protection requirements contained in over 100 pieces of environmental legislation to control air quality, water quality and waste management;
  • The enforcement of over 14,000 permits;
  • The undertaking of around 168,000 inspections and almost 20,000 associated enforcement actions annually;
  • The management of over 78,000 environmental complaints throughout the year;
  • The initiation of over 850 prosecutions over the year.

The findings from the report show that there are still challenges in waste, farm and air quality inspections. The EPA has recommended actions based on these issues as follows:

  • It should be ensured that waste is segregated by generators to improve recovery;
  • The sharing of information on waste enforcement should be improved to detect and prevent illegal waste activities;
  • The number of farm inspections should be increased. There was a reduction in the numbers of inspections nationally in 2018 and these should be restored to at least the levels that were reached previously in order to protect surface waters;
  • In order to improve air quality, there should be increased enforcement and coordinated action on the Solid Fuel Regulations.

To read the EPA report in full click here.

May 2020