The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has criticised two local authorities for failures in environmental enforcement performance between 2014 and last year.
An EPA review found evidence of improved local authority enforcement activity among 29 local authorities but singled out Sligo County Council and Longford County Council for criticism.
Sligo County Council’s performance score “remained below target” because it did not meet its targets for litter; septic tank and waste battery inspections.
Longford County Council was found to have an inadequate enforcement plan. The authority also scored poorly on water enforcement, as it did not carry out sufficient farm, septic tank or wastewater discharge licence inspections.
Local authorities have 500 “environmental protection requirements” contained in more than 100 pieces of environmental legislation to control air quality; water quality and waste management.
In spite of improved enforcement in the vast majority of local authorities last year, the "Focus on Local Authority Environmental Enforcement: 2014 - 2016 Performance Report" says all local authorities need to target inspections to improve air quality in towns and the recycling of food waste – and to reduce illegal dumping of tyres.
The performance of the Sligo and Longford local authorities in relation to air quality was also “not up to standard”, and enforcement of regulations on decorative paints, solvents and petroleum vapour was found to be unacceptable.
In the report published on Tuesday, the EPA used 26 indicators to measure environmental enforcement performance. Local authorities last year undertook 140,000 environmental inspections, 15,000 enforcement actions and 400 prosecutions, and handled 60,000 environmental complaints such as illegal dumping, water pollution, air and noise complaints.
Dr Darragh Page, programme manager in the EPA's office of environmental enforcement, said: "To protect our health and the environment, we are recommending that local authorities target inspections particularly to improve air quality and manage our waste streams to increase recycling levels."
The report also highlighted areas where local authorities needed to take stronger enforcement measures, including:
– Enhancing controls on burning of solid fuels: This is to help lessen the 1,500 premature deaths associated with air pollution in Ireland annually, it points out. "The level of particulate matter in our air is of growing concern especially during the winter months. The fuel we choose can directly impact on our air quality and health, particularly in small towns and villages. Inspections need to target fuel quality and labelling and should take a multiagency approach to implement the upcoming nationwide smoky coal ban," the report states.
–Improving management of waste tyres: This is with a view to reducing the number of illegally dumped tyres around the countryside and to minimise toxic fire threats. New regulations have been introduced recently to maximise reuse, recycling and recovery of waste tyres. "In 2018, local authorities should focus on inspections of retailers to drive compliance with the new scheme," the report recommends.
– Improving segregation of household food waste including brown bin use: These steps "are necessary to increase recycling, avoid odour nuisance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions".
Individual county reports are available at: http://www.epa.ie