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More action is needed by Local Authorities to protect Air and Water Quality warns EPA

More action is needed by Local Authorities to protect Air and Water Quality warns EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its report on local authority environmental enforcement activities for 2019.  The EPA has seen an increase in both the numbers of inspections and enforcement actions taken by local authorities since 2018 with the bulk of these relating to waste and litter.   Local authorities also managed a substantial volume of environmental complaints during the year.  These again related predominantly to waste issues.

The EPA found that local authorities are taking account of national enforcement priorities in implementing their work which is welcome.  It did find, however, that additional focus is needed in both air enforcement and water protection.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said “In looking across the range of enforcement activities, waste management is where most local authority activities are focused.  This is not surprising given the breadth of their functions in this area relative to air enforcement. Good work has been completed by local authorities, working with the EPA, in developing the national air monitoring programme.  However, considering the effect of air quality on human health and well-being, more action is needed on air enforcement.”

A substantial programme of water inspection was undertaken by the local authorities during the year and these water inspections and investigations led to over a thousand enforcement actions and a limited number of prosecutions during 2019.

Andy Fanning, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said “Local authorities continue to deliver their key role in national water sampling which is welcome as it provides data to inform action.  This information, however, 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 applying enough resources to protect both human health and the environment and are taking effective enforcement action where non compliances are found.”

The EPA also highlights in the report that, while enforcement is necessary, all sectors of society have a role in making sure their actions do not pollute or damage our environment.  Each household, organisation and business need to segregate and manage their wastes correctly, comply with low smoke zone requirements where they are in place, and make sure that their actions do not pollute waters.

Construction & Demolition waste
Just over 6.2 million tonnes of C&D waste were generated in Ireland in 2018 (77% soil and stones). The appropriate management of this high tonnage waste stream is important. Local authorities have carried out inspection and enforcement activities to ensure appropriate waste
management practices at sites giving rise to construction and demolition waste. This metric (82% compliance on first-time inspection) indicates that this is having a positive impact, with better compliance levels being found at first time inspections. This also appears to be having a positive impact on the permitted sites receiving the C&D waste with a compliance rate of 80% being observed in 2019.

Action required: Drive improved compliance rates in C&D sector, in particular targeting large tonnage construction and demolition operations for inspection and enforcement.

Source – Environmental Protection Agency

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