EPA calls on local authorities to target inspections to improve air quality and management of waste tyres and food waste

Date released: Dec 12 2017, 12:03 AM

 EPA calls on local authorities to target inspections to improve air quality and management of waste tyres and food waste

  • 23 out of 31 local authorities improved their environmental performance between 2014 – 2016; 29 met the target standard.
  • Local authorities need to target inspections to:
    • control the burning of solid fuel, to lessen the 1,500 premature deaths associated with air pollution;
    • improve management of key waste streams including waste tyres and waste food.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today released a review of local authority environmental enforcement performance for 2014 - 2016. The review found evidence of improving local authority enforcement activity during this period.  The report recommends that local authorities now need to target inspections to improve air quality in towns and the recycling of food waste and to reduce the illegal dumping of tyres.

The EPA used 26 indicators to measure local authorities’ environmental enforcement performance set out in the report, Focus on Local Authority Environmental Enforcement: 2014 – 2016 Performance Report. The local authorities overall national environmental enforcement performance was static between 2014 and 2015.  In 2016, the overall local authority performance improved.

Mr Darragh Page, Programme Manager, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

 “This report provides evidence of improvements in environmental performance by the local authorities who hold significant and wide-ranging enforcement responsibilities in this area.  It also maps out where improvements can be targeted, both nationally and locally.   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 review found that in 2016 local authorities:

  • 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.

The report also highlighted areas where local authorities need to take stronger enforcement measures, including:

  • Enhancing controls relating to the burning of solid fuels, to lessen the 1,500 premature deaths associated with air pollution.  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.  Awareness campaigns explaining the effects of burning smoky coal on our health should target householders, retailers and mobile solid fuel operators.  Inspections need to target fuel quality and labelling and should take a multiagency approach to implement the upcoming nationwide smoky coal ban.
  • Improving the management of waste tyres, to reduce the number of illegally dumped tyres around the countryside and minimise toxic fire threats. New regulations have been introduced recently to maximise the reuse, recycling and recovery of waste tyres.   In 2018, local authorities should focus on inspections of retailers to drive compliance with the new scheme.
  • Improving segregation of household food waste and enforcing the brown bin collection services to increase recycling, avoid odour nuisance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Brown bins are available in cities, towns and villages with populations over 500 persons.   Local authority enforcement is key to ensuring food waste diversion and recycling targets are met.  This can be achieved via public awareness campaigns and inspections of waste collectors.

Commenting on the report, Valerie Doyle, Senior Inspector in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“Local authorities need to specify how their inspections will improve our environment and our health in their plans for 2018.  Targeting inspections in areas where improvements are clearly needed, such as reducing harmful air pollutants from burning smoky coal, will improve our environment and our health.”

Further information on the Local Authority Environmental Performance Framework is available on the EPA website, as are the Individual county reports.


Local authority environmental enforcement role:

  • 31 local authorities regulate more than 500 environmental protection requirements contained in over 100 pieces of environmental legislation to control air quality, water quality and waste management.
  • This work also involves the enforcement of over 9,000 permits, the undertaking of approximately 140,000 site inspections and 15,000 associated enforcement actions each year.
  • Each year, local authorities develop enforcement plans to allocate resources where they are most needed, based on the risk posed to the environment and what is deemed a priority locally or nationally.

Compiling the performance report:

Each year local authorities inform the EPA of their enforcement plans and their planned levels of activity, and later submit data on completed activities alongside information on notable achievements and any discernible outcomes.

The EPA has designed a framework using this enforcement information, with the intention of assisting local authorities to implement programmes of continual improvement in environmental enforcement.
Local authority performance is measured using 26 indicators based on three years of inspection data from 2014 to 2016.  The performance is aggregated and graded with a score on a nine-point scale.  The overall performance increased from level five ‘Target’ in 2014 and 2015 to level six, ‘Above Target’ in 2016.

While today’s report focuses on the national picture, the nature of inspections and enforcement activities will vary for each local authority due to local factors.  To help each local authority plan local improvements an ’Environmental Performance Assessment Report’ for each local authority is available on the EPA website. 

Note on the Air Quality figure
The figure of 1,500 premature deaths associated with air pollution a year in Ireland is derived from World Health Organisation data.

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

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