Guidance on the Authorisation of Discharges to Groundwater

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The authorisation of discharges to groundwater in Ireland is currently regulated and authorised by local authorities and the EPA under the European Communities Environmental Objectives (Groundwater) Regulations, 2010 (S.I. No. 9 of 2010). Due to the comprehensive nature of the Groundwater Regulations and their relationship to the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and the Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC), a consistent approach towards technical assessment is needed.

The Groundwater Regulations introduced groundwater quality objectives to which public authorities have a duty to respond, both in terms of promoting compliance with the requirements of the regulations and taking all reasonable steps to ‘prevent or limit’ the inputs of pollutants to groundwater. In principle, ‘prevent or limit’ measures are the first line of defence in restricting inputs of pollutants to groundwater and thereby avoiding or reducing pollution. The ‘prevent’ objective relates to hazardous substances, whereby all necessary and reasonable measures should be taken to avoid the entry of such substances into groundwater and to avoid any significant increase in concentration in groundwater, even at a local scale. The ‘limit’ objective relates to non-hazardous substances, whereby all necessary measures should be taken to limit inputs into groundwater to ensure that such inputs do not cause deterioration in status of groundwater bodies, nor significant and sustained upward trends in groundwater concentrations.

This technical guidance has been prepared to assist public authorities in this capacity, with the primary aim of introducing a consistent approach and methodology as to how new discharge activities should be assessed, how to reach a defensible decision as to whether the activity should be authorised or not, and what steps or mitigation actions might be needed in order to grant authorisation.

This guidance is primarily for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) personnel, but is also intended to assist local authorities, other public bodies and environmental professionals involved in the preparation or review of discharge to groundwater applications.

This guidance will also be useful for licensees notified of a review of IPPC or Waste licences as required under the Groundwater Regulations. Further information regarding this review process is available here.