Flytipping and uncontrolled waste-burning are new face of illegal waste activity

Date released: Jul 27 2006

The EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement today published 'Focus on Environmental Enforcement'.  This report, the first of its kind, reveals problems uncovered by EPA inspectors at waste and industrial facilities licenced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

'Significant issues remain to be tackled in Ireland if we are to protect the environment and comply with European legislation', said Dara Lynott, Director, EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement today. 'But as a result of increased enforcement, new legislation and the work of a network of enforcement regulators, improvements are happening.'

The Report finds that: 

  • Industries in some sectors, notably the food and drink, intensive agriculture and the timber treatment sector continue to encounter difficulty in operating according to their licence conditions.
  • Poor waste management practices were identified in eight out of twelve classes of industry.
  • Odour at waste transfer stations is causing nuisance and provoking increased complaints.
  • Organised flytipping and backyard burning of waste are now significant problems.
  • 18 percent of wastewater generated in Ireland receives no treatment before discharge.

The report shows that in the 37 prosecutions taken by the EPA during the period covered by the report, the Courts handed down costs and fines in excess of €320,000.  Meanwhile, remedial measures taken by the companies prosecuted have cost in the region of €33 million and have brought about improved environmental performance at the sites.  Prosecutions taken in the last two years continue to bring about an improvement in behaviour and environmental performance of licensed sites.

The report establishes that:

  • Large scale illegal dumping of the type that occurred in Co. Wicklow prior to 2002 is no longer taking place.
  • Licensing and enforcement of industrial and waste activities has been effective in controlling emissions and reducing pollution from pre-licensing levels.
  • The quality of drinking water supplied by sanitary authorities was satisfactory in 2004 - the overall rate of compliance with drinking water standards was 96.4 per cent.
  • The EPA has targeted local authorities suspected of causing serious pollution due to discharges from wastewater treatment plants.
  • There has been significant improvements in compliance with waste export regulations.
  • Over 900 staff from local authorities and other organisations are involved in the Environmental Enforcement Network, set up and led by the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement.

Mr. Lynott emphasised that all of us must treat the environment responsibly.

'Eliminating fly tipping and backyard burning is the responsibility of everyone,' he said.  'This means ensuring your waste is handed over to legitimate waste collectors.  Industry - particularly the waste industry - has a responsibility to conduct their business without causing nuisance to their neighbours, to handle waste responsibly and to prevent pollution of groundwater and surface water.' 

Mr Lynott continued 'where there is evidence of serious negligence or wilful disregard for legislation, companies can expect to face the full force of the law where the courts have the power to impose fines of up to €15 million.'

Report highlights:

  • Complaints against waste facilities increased significantly (mainly regarding odour) while complaints against industry have decreased. 
  • More than 500 complaints about local authority performance have been investigated since the establishment of the Office of Environmental Enforcement.
  • The establishment of National Enforcement Network and co-operation with Northern Ireland authorities has led to better intelligence on illegal waste activities, and concerted actions against suspected illegal waste operators, north and south.
  • Increased enforcement by local authorities in 2004 resulted in 12,000 site inspections, 377 road-blocks and the serving of 1,588 notices by local authorities under the Waste Management Act.  300 prosecutions were also taken by local authorities in 2004.

Future enforcement action:

  • Investigate, through the enforcement network, complaints of illegal dumping received on the 'Dump the Dumpers' telephone complaints service. Tackle the persistent land and groundwater issues associated with the timber preservation industry.
  • Enforce compliance with odour abatement conditions in licenses issued by the EPA.
  • Carry out investigations into known environmental crime and illegal activities, using covert surveillance where necessary, and prosecute offenders accordingly.
  • Launch a national environmental complaints system.
  • Complete an investigation into the land spreading of industrial sludge.

The report is available on the EPA web site or from the EPA's Publications' Office, McCumiskey House, Richview, Dublin 14 on 01-2680100.