Positive trends in pollutant releases tracked by EPA

Date released: Nov 08 2009

Pollutant Release Register reveals decreases in the emission of several significant pollutants from industrial and waste facilities

The EPA has today published figures for the release and transfer of pollutants in 2007.  The Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) compiles data on 91 specific substances or “pollutants” in emissions to air, water and waste-water, as well as off-site transfers of both hazardous and non-hazardous waste. The specific pollutants are recorded by activities licensed by the EPA and certain non-EPA licensed activities above specified reporting thresholds, and registered by the EPA.

Commenting Dara Lynott, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said:

“The register is a useful tool for tracking trends in emissions over time and for providing information to the general public.  However, the register is not an inventory of all emissions, nor is it an assessment of compliance by operators of their licences, permits or authorisations.

The PRTR will allow the EPA and the general public to maintain close and informed attention to changes to pollutant releases and other observed trends over the coming years.

Industry will benefit from full engagement with the PRTR and related forthcoming reporting initiatives in a number of ways, in particular in fostering better understanding and relations with their local communities and the wider public.”

The EPA has submitted the Irish PRTR to the European Commission for inclusion in the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) for the Reporting Year 2007, due out on 9 November 2009.  This was the first reporting year under the E-PRTR. The E-PRTR is an annual report to the European Commission of the emissions and off-site transfers of waste from Irish industrial and waste management facilities. In turn, the Commission is providing public access to the data from Ireland and from all Member States of the EU via its PRTR website, to be launched on 9 November 2009.

This first report under the E-PRTR Regulation builds on two reports under the EPER (European Pollutant Emission Register) series, the first of which was submitted in 2003 and covered emissions for the reporting year 2001. 

The PRTR represents a more comprehensive accounting of environmental emissions than was possible under the EPER mechanism, and its legal status and the resources being devoted to it by the EU Commission, Member States and by licensed industry, are all substantially greater than was the case regarding EPER. 

The EPA recognises that implementation of the EPRTR has not yet been fully realised, and that further systems and guidance development and communication with the relevant industry sectors is essential. A number of reporting and calculation errors have been identified after the submission date and for which there will not be an opportunity to correct on the EU website until Q2 2010. The incorrect data set includes data for carbon dioxide, methane and dioxin and furans. The correct data is included in the tables  on the EPA website.

Comparison of the content of the 2007 E-PRTR with the results of the two EPER inventories must be done with some caution, as the structure of the two mechanisms are substantially different. However, with that limitation, it is seen that the number of facilities reporting has fallen, from a total of 183 above at least one EPER threshold, to 168 - in spite of the inclusion of additional reportable sectors. 

The number of individual releases (emissions) reported from all facilities is 409, an increase of 70% on the EPER 2004 report, strongly reflecting the inclusion of the urban waste-water plants as a new reporting category.

The figures reveal the continuation of a number of highly positive trends, with significant decreases in the emission of several significant pollutants from industrial and waste facilities.  In particular, the continuing reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide is to be welcomed.

The data demonstrate a consistent and considerable increase in most substances in discharges to water. This is clearly and very largely due the inclusion of the six largest urban waste-water treatment plants in the country for the first time. These plants are, as expected, very much the major sources of inputs to Irish waterbodies, as they are in other countries in Europe and around the world.

The detailed 2007 E-PRTR data submission from Ireland and from other countries in Europe will be available on the  E-PRTR website  from 9 November 2009.

A summary report of the Irish pollutant emission Register  is available on the EPA website.

Further information: EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours).

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITOR:

The European Communities (European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) Regulation 2007, S.I. No. 123 of 2007) signed into Irish Law on 22 March 2007 the E-PRTR Regulation, (EC) No 166/2006, concerning the establishment of a European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register.

The E-PRTR Regulation has a number of principal objectives, as set out in Article 1 of the Regulation:

Article 1
Subject matter
This Regulation establishes an integrated pollutant release and transfer register at Community level in the form of a publicly accessible electronic database and lays down rules for its functioning, in order to implement the UNECE Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers and facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making, as well as contributing to the prevention and reduction of pollution of the environment.

PRTRs are becoming more common globally, and countries around the world have already developed their own national PRTRs or are currently in the process of developing one; Ireland is among the latter group of countries.

The implementation of PRTR in Ireland is a reflection of a number of separate but related trends both directly within the administration of environmental matters and also in public participation in environmental decision-making. Recent increased requirements on operators of licensed industrial and waste facilities for reporting and record-keeping with regard to environmental information are part of Ireland’s obligations under the PRTR Regulations. These requirements will also come from the application of the UNECE PRTR Protocol and the Aarhus Convention in Ireland, as and when these are formally ratified. In addition, there is an increased demand for good service and for timely access to information from the EPA’s stakeholders, and EPA is eager to meet the challenges of providing an enhanced enforcement service and a greater need for public access to information while at the same time minimising the administrative burden impacting on facility operators.