There was a sharp rise in the volume of environmental complaints against factories and other industrial facilities last year as people were stuck in their communities due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the amount of complaints rose by 127 per cent over the previous year , including a "dramatic" rise in those relating to foul odours.
The EPA said the increase in complaints could be down to there being “more people in their community on a continuous basis during the pandemic”.
Its annual summary report on enforcement, published on Wednesday, highlighted the continued policing of licenced facilities throughout the country in spite of lockdown measures, with 1,089 inspections taking in 830 individual installations.
“Odour nuisance” was a serious problem accounting for 13 per cent of all inspections prompted by complaints from the public, peaking in April at 187.
In particular, there were more than 100 complaints against the Arrow Group in Kildare, Gas Networks Ireland in Limerick, Tipperary Co-op Creamery and Merck Millipore in Cork.
The top five most visited sites were Tipperary Co-op Creamery (with 19); Arrow Group (20); Merck Millipore (21); Green Circular Economy Unlimited Company in Dublin (24); and Limerick Gasworks (30). The majority of inspections on these sites were to investigate odour issues.
"With complaints about local licensed facilities almost doubling, the role of the EPA in enforcing industrial and waste licenced activities became even more important," said Tom Ryan, director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement.
Of all inspections, 14 per cent involved facilities on the National Priority Site List, those with significant non-compliance with licence conditions and which regularly see incidents and complaints.
The agency noted that the "continued poor compliance status" of the Arrow Group and Arran Chemical Company "is of serious concern". It said both firms are the subject of ongoing enforcement action "to resolve the environmental issues and to bring them into compliance".
Other inspections conducted during the year included water, air and noise monitoring. Just over 200 remote compliance assessments were carried out over the internet.
The National Priority Site List for 2020 also included the Arran Chemical Company in Roscommon; Killarney Waste Disposal in Kerry; the Raffeen Landfill Site in Cork; Decotek Automotive in Westmeath; The Hammond Lane Metal Company in Cork; and Takeda Ireland Limited in Dublin.
The Arrow Group includes Dawn Farm Foods, the Culinary Food Group, QK Coldstores, Dawn Farms Distribution and Maudlins Waste Management.
Other various complaints across sites related to concerns over infrastructure, groundwater contamination, waste storage, emissions, and landfill gas.