Local Authority Environmental Enforcement Activity Report 2020

This report outlines the positive work that local authorities carried out in 2020 focussing on National Enforcement Priorities.

Waste enforcement activities largely remained resilient in 2020 with many good examples of multi-agency work and the improved coordination and strengthening of enforcement through the WERLA shared services.

The reduced enforcement activities in Water and Air/Noise needs to be addressed considering the decline in water quality and the significant health impacts associated with air/noise.

In 2020, staff numbers involved in environmental enforcement across all local authorities increased to just under 500 staff, continuing the upward trend of recent years but still below 2008 staffing levels.

A slight decrease in overall environment inspections undertaken in 2020 is seen (180,000 inspections compared to 188,000 in 2019).

The reduced enforcement activities in Water and Air/Noise needs to be addressed considering the decline in water quality and the significant health impacts associated with air/noise.

Local authorities must:

  • Implement better targeting of water enforcement activities in ‘at-risk’ areas and follow up on non-compliances they are detecting especially those relating to agriculture and septic tanks.
  • Continue to improve the quality of waste data and effectively share this data to target enforcement effort.
  • Engage in co-ordinated and targeted inspections of solid fuel supplies particularly at the point of entry of the specified fuels onto the market. This should be supported by sample analysis and follow-up enforcement action.

Total Water Enforcement Actions Initiated during 2020: 1,100

There were 24 water prosecutions initiated in 2020

Statutory water quality monitoring accounted for a large proportion of local authority water related inspections activities for 2020 and these targets were generally achieved

Inspections and enforcement activity of the national water enforcement priorities are key to protect water bodies from excess nutrients. However routine inspections of these priorities reduced in 2020 from the low base completed in 2019.

It is also clear that there is often inconsistent selection/prioritisation of sites for inspections (e.g. lack of clear identification and prioritisation of discharge licenses/farm activities causing waterbody pressure) across local authorities.

Where non-compliance is detected evidence of follow up and enforcement action is often lacking or unreported. Enforcement actions/prosecution numbers in this area have also decreased.

Water Enforcement Activities

On a national basis there has been a significant reduction in overall levels of water enforcement activities in 2020. This applies to inspections, and enforcement actions.

Prosecution numbers were also very low and over 2/3 of all counties initiated no water prosecutions in 2020.
Two counties [Limerick (7) and Wexford (8)] accounted for the majority of prosecutions.

Water National Enforcement Priorities – Actions Required: Water quality in Ireland’s rivers, lakes and estuaries is declining nationally and must be better protected through evidence-based measures, integrated water catchment-based work and reducing the amount of nutrients ending up in water courses.

In this regard:

➢ Local authorities must target their water enforcement activities better in waterbodies at risk of not meeting Water Framework Directive targets, especially in the agriculture and septic tank areas.
➢ Local authorities must follow up on non-compliances detected and take appropriate enforcement action.
➢ Better co-ordination between local authorities is also needed if progress is to be made to protect and restore water quality. This targeted approach should be clearly defined in local authority RMCEI plans for 2022 and resources assigned appropriately.

Summary 2018-2020: Water Enforcement Activities


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