More focused and co-ordinated enforcement is needed by local authorities to protect water and air quality, cautions EPA

  • Local authority inspection numbers remained high (180,000 in 2020) despite the impact of COVID-19. However, water inspections decreased by 30 per cent and air and noise inspections decreased by 10 per cent.
  • Focused water quality enforcement and follow through on non-compliances in key areas such as farm and septic tank inspections needs improvement.
  • The burning of non-complaint solid fuel remains a key issue impacting on human health, with co-ordinated and targeted inspections of fuel supplies required. 
  • More resources need to be targetted at water and air enforcement to address the environmental and health challenges highlighted.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today released its report on local authority environmental enforcement activities for 2020. The EPA has seen a high level of inspections and enforcement actions carried out by local authorities, with the bulk of these relating to waste and litter.   Local authorities also handled a substantial volume of environmental complaints during the year – predominantly relating to waste issues.   

Waste enforcement activities largely remained resilient in 2020. However, the EPA found progress on water and air enforcement priorities lagged behind waste enforcement, primarily due to having less resources assigned to them and a lack of enforcement co-ordination services across the local authorities.  

“The resilience of the waste enforcement activities and better co-ordination through the support of the regional waste shared services is to be commended. However, it is concerning to see the reduced enforcement activity in water, air and noise, given the decline in our water quality and the impact of poor air quality and noise on the environment and human health. Local authorities must address these challenges as a matter of priority in their enforcement activities.”

The national water quality monitoring programme was substantially completed by local authorities, providing up to date information on water quality.  However, there is not enough evidence that this information is being used effectively by local authorities to target local enforcement efforts.

Noel Byrne, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said:

“National water monitoring data is showing a continuing decline in water quality and more needs to be done to protect our water environment.  Local authorities need to make sure that they are targeting inspections of farms and septic tanks in the areas of greatest risk and are taking effective enforcement action where non-compliances are found.”

In addition, the burning of non-complaint solid fuels remains a key issue impacting on air quality and human health.   Local authorities should engage in co-ordinated and targeted inspections of solid fuel supplies and take follow-up enforcement actions to ensure that the environment and health are protected. 

The Focus on Local Authority Environmental Enforcement Report 2020 is available on the EPA website, which contains an infographic highlighting the main findings from the report.

Local authority environmental enforcement role:

  • 31 local authorities regulate more than 500 environmental protection requirements, contained in over 100 pieces of environmental legislation to control air quality, water quality and waste management.
  • Approximately 180,000 inspections were completed in 2020 (see graphic for breakdown).
  • Almost 19,000 enforcement actions were taken by local authorities in 2020.  90 per cent of these related to waste and litter issues.
  • This work also involves the enforcement of over 15,000 permits and licenses granted by the local authorities.
  • Local authorities handled over 85,000 environmental complaints during the year, predominantly relating to waste issues.
  • Each year, local authorities develop enforcement plans to allocate resources where they are most needed, based on the risk posed to the environment and what is deemed a priority locally or nationally.
  • Over 400 prosecutions were initiated – mainly in relation to waste legislation – and over 900 litter prosecutions were initiated by local authorities during the year.  

Reporting pollution:

Download the National Environmental Complaints Line APP ‘See it Say it’ at the following links:

Visit:  iPhone App or Android App.  

This App makes it really easy to report environmental pollution the GPS location and a photo submitted at the touch of a button.  If a person spots environmental pollution or dumping, open the App, take a photograph, add a few simple details including your contact details, and submit the complaint. The app will send the GPS coordinates and will make it easy for those investigating to locate the problem. This will allow your local County or City Council to follow up on the complaint. The report will be submitted to Fix Your Street.One can check there for updates.

You can also use the App to make a phone call to the National Environmental Complaints Line 1800 365 123. The phone line is open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week and all calls will be answered by dedicated staff. The details of the complaint, such as location, nature of the complaint, will be recorded and passed to the relevant local authority, and followed up by them, the Gardaí or the EPA as appropriate.

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