The EPA has published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2018 which highlights delivery of its role as a regulator, knowledge provider and advocate for the environment. Commenting on the launch of the report, Laura Burke, Director General, said: “We know that many of today’s environmental problems require a cross-sectoral, joined-up government and societal response. It is clear to us from our everyday interactions that the public, business and society have a clear understanding of the link between a clean environment, our health, our wellbeing and our economy. Indeed, highlights from the report for 2018 include results from a national omnibus survey that show the public consider climate change, waste, water quality and pollution as the biggest environmental challenges facing the nation.”
Climate change: In addressing climate change, the EPA supported the implementation, monitoring and assessment of climate action by collating national greenhouse gas emissions and projections, by regulating emissions from industrial sectors, supporting climate science research and facilitating the National Dialogue on Climate Action – a Government of Ireland initiative to link government interventions and local community initiatives.
Air Quality: The EPA reported in 2018 that Ireland continued to meet all legal standards for air quality, but levels of air pollution at some locations exceeded the more stringent, health-related World Health Organization guideline values. The EPA more than doubled the number of air monitoring stations in 2018 – with more to come online by 2022.
Radon: The EPA highlighted in 2018 that an estimated 300 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year are linked to the radioactive gas radon with more than 500,000 people living in homes with radon concentrations above the acceptable level. The EPA continues to work with Government to extend the National Radon Control Strategy.
Water Quality: The EPA reported in 2018 that while some overall improvements had been achieved, the loss of the best-quality rivers, lakes and coastal waters continued and required a greater focus on protecting the most pristine waters. The EPA highlighted a key pressure on this environment as the deficiencies and pace of change in the wastewater treatment infrastructure in Ireland where failure to treat wastewater properly damages our rivers and coastal waters.
Drinking Water Quality: The EPA reported in 2018 that drinking water quality remained high and most of our water supplies were safe. However, continued investment was needed to improve the security of water supplies and achieve compliance with current public health standards and new standards, expected by 2020.
Waste: The EPA reported on a national waste characterisation study in 2018 demonstrating that while some waste was still being disposed of incorrectly, considerable improvements had been made. The study’s findings support waste management policy and infrastructure development, highlighting three areas for future focus – plastic, food waste and single-use materials.
Furthermore, the National Waste Prevention Programme, led by the EPA, supports businesses, homeowners and other sectors to prevent waste and use resources more efficiently. Following a review in 2018, the programme was aligned with the EU Circular Economy Package and will advocate for resource use efficiency and the circular economy through leadership and support.
Licensing: The number of decisions issued on industrial and waste licence applications increased in 2018 compared with the previous year reflecting EPA’s role in environmental regulation of industrial emissions, intensive agriculture, waste and resources, dumping at sea, and genetically modified organisms.
Source – EPA