Local authorities should ‘should co-operate more’ to tackle illegal waste

EPA report calls for more focus on enforcing waste segregation in households and businesses

The EPA report also strongly recommends local authorities should be working together more in tackling illegal waste operators

The EPA report also strongly recommends local authorities should be working together more in tackling illegal waste operators

 

Deficiencies in local authority enforcement of environmental legislation on illegal waste operations, farm inspections and air quality monitoring have been highlighted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA report also strongly recommends local authorities should be working together more in tackling illegal waste operators.

Local authorities increased their enforcement during 2018, with 168,000 inspections, almost 20,000 enforcement actions and more than 850 prosecutions initiated. They also processed some 78,000 environmental complaints during the year.

More focus was needed, however, on enforcement of waste segregation in households and businesses, along with an increase in farm and air quality inspections to address the threat of water pollution and health risk associated with some forms of solid fuel, the report concludes.

“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,” said Dr Tom Ryan, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement.

“There should also be a timely sharing of data, between local authorities and other enforcement bodies to address illegal waste activities,” he added.

Local authorities need to increase inspection and enforcement actions to better regulate the burning of solid fuels, the report finds. “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.”

Farm inspections reduced by 650 during 2018, and the EPA recommends the number of inspections be returned to previous levels “at a minimum to ensure adequate protection of rivers and lakes”. It also recommends farm inspections be targeted at areas where water quality is at risk.

Rollout of segregated collection (notably brown bins) and their use by the public and businesses should also be scaled up, th EPA says.

This report found the local authority inspection process was effective and took into account national priorities. Performance in environmental enforcement was rated good overall – 31 local authorities regulate more than 500 environmental protection requirements contained in over 100 pieces of legislation and oversee enforcement of 14,000 permits.

While the report is focused on local authorities’ performance, the EPA highlighted “the public has a pivotal role in addressing such environmental issues”.

“We all need to play our part addressing the environmental challenges facing us,” said senior EPA inspector Valerie Doyle.

“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,” she added.

This can be done by using the EPA’s “See It Say It” smartphone app or by calling the National Environmental Complaints Line 1850 365 121 or the local authority. The enforcement report is available on the EPA website.