More action is needed by Local Authorities to protect Air and Water Quality warns EPA

Date released: March 11, 2021

  • The EPA has today released its report on local authority environmental enforcement activities for 2019.
  • There has been an increase in local authority inspection and enforcement activities relating to waste and litter.
  • Further action and coordination are needed to ensure compliance with air legislation, with a focus on fuels that are on sale and in use in low smoke zones.
  • More needs to be done to drive compliance nationally with water protection legislation, given the continuing decline in water quality.

The EPA has seen an increase in both the numbers of inspections and enforcement actions taken by local authorities since 2018 with the bulk of these relating to waste and litter.   Local authorities also managed a substantial volume of environmental complaints during the year.  These again related predominantly to waste issues.   

The EPA found that local authorities are taking account of national enforcement priorities in implementing their work which is welcome.  It did find, however, that additional focus is needed in both air enforcement and water protection. 

Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said: 

“In looking across the range of enforcement activities, waste management is where most local authority activities are focused.  This is not surprising given the breadth of their functions in this area relative to air enforcement. Good work has been completed by local authorities, working with the EPA, in developing the national air monitoring programme.  However, considering the effect of air quality on human health and well-being, more action is needed on air enforcement.”

A substantial programme of water inspection was undertaken by the local authorities during the year and these water inspections and investigations led to over a thousand enforcement actions and a limited number of prosecutions during 2019. 

Andy Fanning, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said:

“Local authorities continue to deliver their key role in national water sampling which is welcome as it provides data to inform action.  This information, however, is showing a continuing decline in water quality and more needs to be done to protect our water environment.  Local authorities need to make sure that they are applying enough resources to protect both human health and the environment and are taking effective enforcement action where non compliances are found.”

The EPA also highlights in the report that, while enforcement is necessary, all sectors of society have a role in making sure their actions do not pollute or damage our environment.  Each household, organisation and business need to segregate and manage their wastes correctly, comply with low smoke zone requirements where they are in place, and make sure that their actions do not pollute waters. 

The report is available on the EPA website. An infographic is also available.

Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or
Notes to Editor:

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.
  • Approximately 188,000 inspections were done in 2019.
  • Almost 23,000 enforcement actions were taken by Local Authorities in 2019.  90 per cent of these related to waste and litter issues.
  • This work also involves the enforcement of over 14,000 permits and licenses granted by the local authorities
  • Over 78,000 environmental complaints during the year predominantly relating to waste issues
  • 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.
  • 42,000 routine water inspections were completed together with a further 4,200 non-routine inspections. 
  • Inspection levels in relation to air account for 4 per cent of all local authority inspections.  The number of air enforcement actions was lower in 2019 than the previous year. 
  • Over 1,700 prosecutions were initiated mainly in relation to waste/litter legislation by local authorities during the year.  This increase is partly due to better reporting by local authorities to the EPA on litter prosecutions (1,200 reported for 2019).

Reporting pollution:

Download the National Environmental Complaints Line APP ‘See it Say it’ at the following links:

Visit:  iPhone App or Android App.  

This App makes it really easy to report environmental pollution the GPS location and a photo submitted at the touch of a button.  If a person spots environmental pollution or dumping, open the App, take a photograph, add a few simple details including your contact details, and submit the complaint. The app will send the GPS coordinates and will make it easy for those investigating to locate the problem. This will allow your local County or City Council to follow up on the complaint. The report will be submitted to One can check there for updates.

You can also use the App to make a phone call to the National Environmental Complaints Line 1850 365 121. The phone line is open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week and all calls will be answered by dedicated staff. The details of the complaint, such as location, nature of the complaint, will be recorded and passed to the relevant local authority, and followed up by them, the Gardaí or the EPA as appropriate.