Incidents at licenced, permitted or authorised sites

Incidents at regulated sites are events that are outside the normal range of operations. They are normally insignificant, but can occasionally be disruptive and may require the involvement of external services  

Such incidents can happen at any time, but the risk of them occurring is foreseeable. Operators build measures to control these risks into their site design. 

When an incident occurs, the operator must respond quickly and effectively to understand what happened, minimise any potential for affecting site workers or neighbours, and prevent any impacts on the local environment.  

All regulated sites are required to report incidents to the EPA as specified in their licences and permits.

Incidents on regulated sites are of two main types: 

Minor incidents, which are typically around 90% of the total each year, include  

  • Breaches of Emission Limit Values or Trigger Levels (these limits are set to ensure that emissions are kept well below levels that could be harmful to the environment) 
  • Losses of material inside contained structuresso that little or nothing is released from the site 

Significant incidents, ranging from limited releases of polluting matter into receiving watercourses or the ambient air, up to Major Emergencies.  These incidents are very rare, and regulated sites work hard to prevent them happening. They do this by maintaining emergency response plans, staff training and safe systems of work. 

Reporting incidents 

The operators of EPA-regulated sites are required to: 

  • Notify the EPA as soon as possible after any incident 
  • Notify other relevant agencies, such as local authority, fire services, Irish Water, fisheries services and other bodies, depending on the nature of the incident 
  • Classify the potential environmental impact of the incident using the National Framework for Major Emergency Management (MEM) system 
  • Mobilise response teams and equipment to deal with the incident and prevent it from recurring. These could be onsite teams or external, for example local fire services 
  • Keep the EPA informed of progress in dealing with the incident, restoring compliance and preventing any chance of the incident happening again 

Notifying Major Emergencies 

Where the incident is classified as Serious, Major or Catastrophic, the operator must activate the Site Emergency Response Procedure. This includes immediately raising an emergency notification to the appropriate Emergency Services (the local authorityAn Garda Síochána or the HSE) as well as to the EPA.  

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

Learn more about the Framework for Major Emergency Management (MEM). 

Information on recent incidents 

Each holder of a licence, permit or authorisation provides a summary of environmental incidents in their Annual Environmental Reports (AERs).  

The EPA publishes summary details of reported incidents in its annual enforcement reports. We also publish notifications of recent incidents (classed as Limited or above) that occur at regulated sites, along with details of our investigation and enforcement response. We move the Incident Notification to the incident archive two months after we publish the final update on the incident. 

Learn more