Date released: December 17, 2020
Commenting on the publication of the report. Laura Burke, Director General, said:
“The EPA has established itself, over the last quarter of a century, as an independent, authoritative source of information and guidance on protection of the environment. We ensure that regulated activities meet environmental and radiation protection standards. We advocate for the environment and promote the link between health and wellbeing, the economy and a clean environment. As a knowledge provider, we provide the evidence-based science to enable better decision making.
The EPA’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2019 provides an overview of progress made on implementing our current strategy Our Environment, Our Wellbeing and provides details of activities during the year together with financial statements.”
Highlighted below are some of the more notable activities in 2019.
Climate change: The EPA is addressing climate change challenges by collating national greenhouse gas emissions and projections; regulating emissions from industrial sectors; supporting climate science research; supporting changes in behaviour to promote a circular economy and facilitating the National Dialogue on Climate Action.
Air Quality: Home heating and transport are impacting air quality, affecting people’s health. The two main pollutants are particulate matter from domestic burning of solid fuels and nitrogen dioxide from fossil-fuelled vehicles in urban areas. Nineteen new air monitoring stations were added to the EPA’s air quality monitoring network in 2019 – with more to come online by 2022.
Radon: An estimated 300 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year are linked to the radioactive gas radon, with more than 500,000 people living in homes with radon concentrations above the acceptable level. Legislation introduced in 2019 requires employers in high radon areas to test their workplaces and reduce the level of radon, if above the national reference level, to protect employees. The EPA continues to work with Government to extend the National Radon Control Strategy.
Water Quality: Ireland has committed to protecting and improving the quality of our rivers, lakes, groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters. During 2019, the quality of our aquatic environment declined after a period of relative stability and improvement. There was a stark loss of pristine (‘best of the best’) river water bodies with just 20 sites remaining, down from over 500 sites in the late 1980s.
A key pressure on this environment is the deficiencies and pace of change in the wastewater treatment infrastructure in Ireland, where failure to treat wastewater properly - at a domestic and national scale - damages our rivers and coastal waters and poses a threat to people’s health.
Drinking Water Quality: Drinking water quality remained high during 2019 and most of our water supplies were safe. The Boil Water Notice relating to the Leixlip water treatment plant issued in November 2019, which affected over half a million consumers, highlighted an ageing system vulnerable to shocks, with the potential to harm people’s health. Continued investment is needed to improve the security of water supplies and achieve compliance with public health standards.
Waste: The EPA leads on the National Waste Prevention Programme which supports enterprises, households and the public sector to prevent waste and drive the circular economy in Ireland. During 2019, generation of waste packaging remained high and, although recycling rates were high for some waste streams, including glass and wood, overall recycling rates had plateaued. Plastic packaging is of concern, with challenges ahead in meeting future EU targets and the ambition of the EU Plastics Strategy.
Licensing: Facilitated by an improved online licensing system, the number of licensing decisions issued by the EPA continued to increase, rising to 132 decisions in 2019 compared to 94 the previous year. This reflects EPA’s improved role in environmental regulation of industrial emissions, intensive agriculture, waste and resources, dumping at sea, and genetically modified organisms.