The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today released its report on local authority environmental enforcement activities for 2019. 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.
Key recommendations for water protection are:
- Ensure the adequacy of resources to meet their statutory water responsibilities.
- Actively collaborate with their shared service to deliver their water quality protection and restoration functions. In particular, where the local authority is advised of a significant decline in water quality under the Red Dot + programme investigations should be undertaken.
- Maintain their key role in WFD monitoring, bathing water monitoring, and investigative monitoring.
- Monitor all private water supplies and enforce the drinking water standards where monitoring identifies non-compliance to better protect human health.
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).