Local authority environmental enforcement activities are increasing, but challenges remain in waste, farm and air quality inspections

  • Local authorities increased environmental enforcement activities in 2018 and met their overall performance target.
  • Further improvements are required in aspects of their enforcement work and local authorities need to:
  • make sure waste is segregated at source by businesses and householders to improve recovery;
  • improve sharing of information on waste enforcement to ensure that illegal waste activities can be detected and prevented;
  • increase farm inspection numbers to previous levels at a minimum, to protect our rivers and lakes; and
  • coordinate action and increase enforcement of the Solid Fuel Regulations  to improve air quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today released its report on local authority environmental enforcement performance for 2018.  The report shows that local authorities have increased their enforcement activities, with 168,000 inspections being undertaken in 2018, together with almost 20,000 enforcement actions and over 850 prosecutions initiated. Local authorities also managed over 78,000 environmental complaints during the year.

This report found that local authority inspection planning and implementation was effective and took into account national priorities.  The EPA identified, however, areas where local authorities could improve their environmental enforcement.

Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“This report shows overall good performance by the local authorities in undertaking their environmental enforcement functions, however there are areas where improvements are needed. In particular, more focus is needed on the enforcement of waste segregation in households and businesses, along with an increase in farm and air quality inspections. There is also an opportunity to improve information sharing between enforcement agencies to ensure that illegal waste activities are identified and tackled. The EPA will be engaging with local authorities to make this a priority in 2020.”

The EPA advises that local authorities need to focus on ensuring good segregation of waste by businesses and householders, to support better waste recycling. This includes increasing the roll-out of segregated collection (e.g. brown bins) and their use by the public and businesses.    The EPA also found that there is a need to improve coordinated action, and the timely sharing of data, between local authorities and other enforcement bodies to address illegal waste activities.
The  EPA found that local authorities need to increase inspection and enforcement actions to better regulate the burning of solid fuels. These inspections should focus on the sale and use of non-compliant fuels in low smoke zones and compliance with the sulphur content limit for fuel.

This report found that farm inspections had reduced by 650 and the EPA recommends  that the number of inspections be returned to previous levels, at a minimum. The EPA also recommends that farm inspections should be targeted at areas where water quality is at risk.

While focussed on the work of local authorities,  the EPA highlighted that the public has a pivotal role in addressing these environmental issues.

Commenting on the report, Valerie Doyle, Senior Inspector said:

“We all need to play our part addressing the environmental challenges facing us.  This can include making sure we segregate our wastes at home and at work so that as much as possible is recycled.  From an enforcement perspective, the public should take responsibility for reporting environmental pollution by using the EPA’s SEE IT SAY IT smartphone app or by calling the National Environmental Complaints Line 1850 365 121 or their local authority.”

The report is available on the EPA website. An infographic is also available.

Further information on the Local Authority Environmental Performance Framework is available on the EPA website.

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.
  • This work also involves the enforcement of over 14,000 permits, the undertaking of approximately 168,000 inspections and almost 20,000 associated enforcement actions each year.
  • 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.

Compiling the performance report:

Each year local authorities inform the EPA of their enforcement plans and their planned levels of activity, and later submit data on completed activities alongside information on notable achievements.  The EPA has designed a framework using this enforcement information, with the intention of assisting local authorities to implement programmes of continual improvement in environmental enforcement. Local authority performance is measured using 26 indicators which are aggregated and graded with a score on a nine-point scale.  The overall performance increased from ‘Target’ in 2014 and 2015 to ‘Above Target’ in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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 www.fixyourstreet.ie. One can check there for updates.

You can also use the App to make a phone call to the National Environmental Complaints Line 1850 365 121. 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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