Managing and reporting environmental incidents

Licences and authorisations issued by the EPA contain conditions relating to incidents and their management.   

An “Incident is typically defined in industrial and waste management licences as: 

(i an emergency ; 

(ii)  any emission which does not comply with the requirements of this licence; 

(iii)  any exceedance of the daily duty capacity of the waste handling equipment; 

(iv)  any trigger level specified in this licence which is attained or exceeded; 

(v)  any indication that environmental pollution has, or may have, taken place. 

Iurban waste water licenses and certificates, an Incident is defined as: 

(i any discharge that does not comply with the requirements of this licence / certificate; 

(ii)  any incident with the potential for environmental contamination of surface water or groundwater, or posing an environmental threat to land, or requiring an emergency response by the relevant Water Services Authority. 

In Dumping at Sea Permitsan incident is defined as 

  1. An emergency; 
  2. Any loading or dumping at sea activity which does not comply with the requirements of this permit; 
  3. Any indication that pollution has, or may have, taken place; 
  4. Activation of the alarmed turbidity sensors specified in Schedules C.1.2 and C.2.2 Water Quality Monitoring of this permit. 

An “Emergency is defined as  

Any unexpected or potentially dangerous situation, requiring immediate action, which may have caused, or might have caused if the action had not taken place, an unauthorised environmental release or breach of licence conditions. 

EPA’s Incident Notification and Management Guidance 

All regulated operators are obliged to report incidents as soon as practicable after they occur. 

The EPA has issued a comprehensive Guidance Document on the Notification, Management and Communication of Environmental Incidents that sets out how licence, permit and authorisation holders are obliged to respond to incidents on their sites. 

In summary, this Guidance Document instructs the operator to 

  • notify the EPA as soon as practicable after the incident or its discovery;  
  • notify other relevant agencies (local authority, fire services, Irish Water, fisheries services and others as appropriateas soon as possible after an incident 
  • classify the potential environmental impact of the incident in order to determine the level of response needed; 
  • mobilise sufficient response capability to deal with the incident and prevent it recurring. 

Notifying the EPA 

To notify the EPA by telephone, operators may call EPA HQ at 053 916 0600 or their Regional EPA Office. 

The EPA’s business hours are 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday except Public & Bank Holidays. Outside of these hours, contact the EPA on any of the above numbers or on our dedicated Low Call number 0818 33 55 99Our Out of Hours line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

To leave a message, please hold for a choice of the three options.  Please be aware that all after-hour calls are recorded.  

  • Option 1 –  non-emergency notification. This is for non-urgent incidents, which will be received by an EPA inspector on the next working day 
  • Option 2 –  Emergency incident. This is an urgent notification of a significant incident at a licensed site or environmental pollution, which will be forwarded to an EPA manager for rapid response 
  • Option 3 –  Radiation emergency. This is an urgent notification of a nuclear or radiological emergency, which will be forwarded to an EPA manager for rapid response 

Operators must also notify the EPA, in written form, via the EDEN Portal, providing essential details set out in the Incident Notification Form provided in the Guidance Document.  Where it is critical to ensure immediate communication of essential details, operators may also provide initial written notification by Email to

Notifying other public bodies

In the event of any incident which relates to unauthorised discharges to sewer, the operator must notify Irish Water and the Local Authority.

The following should be notified as soon as practicable after the occurrence of any incident which relates to a discharge to surface water or groundwater:

  • Inland Fisheries Ireland - in the case of discharges to receiving water i.e. freshwater, estuarine waters or sea water,
  • Marine Institute (MI), Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) – in the case of discharges to, or likely to impact, shellfish waters (those coastal and brackish waters designated by the Member States as needing protection or improvement in order to support shellfish (bivalve and gasteropod molluscs) life and growth and thus to contribute to the high quality of shellfish products directly edible by man; Shellfish Waters Directive – 2006/113/EC),
  • Irish Water – in the case of any incident where the discharge(s) have been identified as upstream of a drinking water abstraction point, and
  • Local Authority – in the case of discharges to designated bathing waters.

Notifying Major Emergencies

Where the incident is classified as of Serious, Major or Catastrophic, the operator must activate the Site Emergency Response Procedure, including raising an emergency notification to the appropriate Emergency Services, the Local AuthorityAn Garda Síochána or the Health Services Executive as well as the EPA.

The operator must ensure that the local community is informed where there is any risk of significant offsite impact.

National Framework for Major Emergency Management (MEM).

Services to the public

The EPA publishes details of incident notifications and investigation updates on the incidents that have occurred at regulated sites.

When the investigation is complete, the EPA will update the incident notification. The update will indicate whether the EPA have considered or taken enforcement action against the operator.

We move the Incident Notification to archive three months after we publish the final update on the incident.

Learn more about

Incidents at EPA regulated sites

Notifications of recent incidents 

Search for information about specific licensed, permitted or authorised sites