This is the first report under the revised Local Authority Performance Framework, which aims to better align performance scores to the delivery of environmental outcomes under National Enforcement Priorities (NEPs).
These NEPs are categorised under four themes (governance processes, waste, water, and air & noise)
Nationally in 2021, over 500 local authority staff handled almost 81,000 complaints and carried out over 205,000 environmental inspections. A high portion of resources are applied to dealing with the 81,000 complaints, most of these relate to litter and waste.
The governance process NEPs generally scored well with 67% achieving the required standard.
The lowest performing governance process NEP was Environmental Outcomes, which reflects the fact that local authorities did not sufficiently define environmental outcomes that are targeted and quantifiable.
Two local authorities failed to meet the required standard in any of the five governance process NEPs. These were Mayo and Wexford
Waterford City & County achieved a Limited result across four of the governance process NEPs, which could not be assessed because they did not submit an RMCEI Plan for the 2021 reporting period.
There currently is no overarching local authority data gathering and reporting system for environmental enforcement
A new National Environmental Management Information System (NEMIS) is being developed by the local authorities, which will improve the efficiency of complaint handling, along with the planning and implementation of environmental enforcement activities.
No local authority achieved the required standard in all five water NEPs
Overall, water quality is in decline across Ireland and the level of enforcement activity is low, with 24% of local authority environmental staff assigned to water monitoring and enforcement in 2021. The water area represents 20% of the national environmental inspections, with over 42,000 water related inspections undertaken by local authorities in 2021. Over 1000 waterbodies are impacted negatively by agriculture. However, in 2021 farm inspections were 43% below pre-COVID levels with 2500 farm inspections carried out. The number of water complaints received by local authorities increased by 14% to 3600 in 2021
Six local authorities failed to meet the required standard in each of the five water NEPs. These were Laois, Mayo, Offaly, South Dublin, Sligo and Waterford City and County. Overall, the level of inspection and enforcement activity is low.
Local Authorities inspect farms under the Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Waters (GAP) Regulations. Surface waters and groundwaters continue to be under pressure from nitrogen and phosphorus from agriculture. 34% of local authorities achieved the required standard for this NEP.
Discharge Licensing: Local authorities inspect compliance with water pollution discharge licences. 33% of local authorities achieved the required standard in this NEP. Despite being planned routine work, there is an inconsistent level of enforcement activity at licenced sites, and many local authorities demonstrated little activity under this NEP.
European Parliament and Council Recommendation 2001/331/EC, on the Recommended Minimum Criteria for Environmental Inspections in member states, known as “RMCEI”. Appendix III provides an Overview of the Local Authority Environmental Enforcement Activity Trends as reported through the RMCEI data