The EPA conducted 48 inspections at unauthorised peat extraction sites during 2021, while industrial sites from the food and drink sector and intensive agriculture made up almost three quarters of sites on its national priority list for enforcement action.
In its report on enforcement activities released on Thursday, which includes its so-called “name and shame” list for failing to meet necessary environmental standards, the agency confirmed targeted enforcement campaigns were conducted on peat extraction sites and waste sites. A total of 41 inspections were on waste sites with the focus on improving fire risk management.
Eleven sites were identified as of most concern and classified as national priority sites last year, a decrease from the 12 sites in 2020. Eight of these were from the food and drink and intensive agriculture sectors.
The EPA carried out 1,295 inspections at EPA licensed sites, a 19 per cent increase compared with 2020, in spite of significant challenges mainly arising from Covid-19 – it monitors 840 licensed installations throughout Ireland.
A total of 30 sites were inspected because of water pressure issues; 14 of these were removed from the EPA’s Water Framework Directive significant pressure list.
Individuals or companies who operate either without an EPA licence or breach that licence were targeted by the EPA for enforcement. “The role of the public in reporting non-compliant or illegal operations to the EPA is a vital tool in helping us to address the environmental issues that may result and we encourage the public to report any concerns to the EPA,” it said.
Director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement Dr Tom Ryan, said it focused its enforcement efforts "on tackling unauthorised extraction of peat, improving water quality downstream of licensed sites and the safe and appropriate management of waste".
Its enforcement is risk-based and targeted at sites not complying with licence requirements, he added. “We carried out almost 1,300 inspections of industrial and waste licensed activities and a further 55 inspections of unauthorised activities which require a licence or must cease operation.”
Darragh Page, programme manager at the EPA Office of Environmental Enforcement the number of sites on the National Priority Sites was around one per cent of licensed sites. Those in food and drink production and intensive agriculture "must improve if Ireland is to support its green image of sustainable food and drink production", he added.
"Our enforcement objective is to ensure these sites resolve the environmental issues and for the sites to return to compliance," Mr Page said.
Licensed facilities on national priority sites for 2021 were:
– Arran Chemical Company Limited in Roscommon (chemical sector) – for air emissions and groundwater issues;
– Arrow Group, Co Kildare (food and drink) – odour and noise;
– Ballyguyroe Landfill Site operated by Cork Co Council – landfill gas and leachate management;
– Diageo Ireland, St James Gate, Dublin (food and drink) – noise emissions;
– Hermitage Farms Ltd (Clifden), Co Kilkenny (intensive agriculture) – odour emissions;
– North Cork Co-Op Creameries Ltd, Co Cork (food and drink) – emissions to water;
– Saint-Gobain Construction Products (Ireland) Ltd, Co Monaghan (mineral extraction) – emissions to water;
– Staunton Foods, Co Cork (food and drink) – noise emissions;
– Timoleague Agri Gen Ltd, Co Cork (intensive agriculture) – site management and lack of required infrastructure;
– Tipperary Co-operative Creamery Ltd, Co Tipperary (food and drink) – emissions to water;
– Western Brand Group Unlimited Company, Co Mayo (food and drink) – emissions to water.
Arrow Group, the EPA noted, includes the activities at its licensed site of Dawn Farm Foods; TCFG Naas (also known as The Culinary Food Group), QK Coldstores, Dawn Farms Distribution and Maudlins Waste Management.
A total of 13 prosecutions were pursued in 2021, resulting in fines totalling €135,000 and the awarding of €180,000 in cost to the EPA.