Identification and assessment of landfill sites

The 1996 Waste Management Act provided for local authorities to identify sites within their jurisdictions at which waste disposal or recovery activities had been carried on, to assess any risk of environmental pollution and to identify remedial measures.

As well as municipal landfills, this included unregulated waste disposal sites. However, this requirement was generally not actioned as there was no national standard for the local authorities to follow in assessing risk and in identifying the necessary remediation works. That deficit was addressed in 2007 with the publication by the EPA of a code of practice for environmental risk assessment of unregulated waste disposal sites.

The legal obligations on local authorities for landfills were expanded in 2008.1 In addition to having to register sites they themselves had operated in the period between July 1977 and March 1997 (at which time the EPA became responsible for licensing and regulating landfill operations) and to carry out an environmental risk assessment, local authorities now had to make applications to the EPA for approval and authorisation of any proposed remediation works.

At July 2020, the total number of identified landfill sites was 611.

This included 117 sites licensed and regulated by the EPA since March 1997, and which it continues to monitor — consisting of 64 sites operated by local authorities and 53 operated privately.

494 unregulated sites registered by local authorities on a web-based register established by the EPA.

Over 70% of the sites are former local authority-operated landfills.

Around 21% were privately operated sites, while just over 8% were illegal dump sites.


Landfill sites on the Section 22 register, as at 31 December 2019

Assessment

The environmental risk assessment of the sites on the Section 22 register involves three progressive stages.

Tier 1 assessment — development of a conceptual site model and risk assessment — this allows for the categorisation of sites into low, moderate and high risk.
Tier 2 assessment — more detailed site investigations and testing.
Tier 3 assessment — refinement of the conceptual site model and completion of a quantitative risk assessment for all moderate and high risk sites.

On completion of the three-tier risk assessment process, local authorities are required to prepare remediation plans to address the risks identified for a site.

Open Data Request 001: EPA Register of Illegal Dumps

OOD

I refer to your request dated 19th January 2022 under the Open Data Directive 2021, which was received on 19th January 2022 for information held by EPA. Your request sought:

“Under the Open Data Directive to request publication of the national database of unregulated waste disposal sites (illegal dumps)


This database is known as the Section 22 database, and the link is at the following URL:

http://watermaps.wfdireland.ie/LandfillRiskAssessment/Authentication/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fLandfillRiskAssessment%2fDefault.aspx

I, Eileen Carroll, have now made a final decision.  I am not in a position to publish the Section 22 Register as requested, and I explain why I cannot do so below.  I can, however, grant you access to the content of the  Register (See 2 below) your request on [10th February 2022.]. 

(1)  Background

The database, or Section 22 register, was established by the EPA over 14 years ago and allowed local authorities to enter details of unregulated waste disposal sites however, the site details entered by local authorities varied.   All local authorities appear to have entered the details of their “closed landfills” in accordance with the Waste Management (Certification of Historic Unlicenced waste Disposal & Recovery Activity) Regulations 2008 (S.I. No. 524 of 2008) and guidance provided by the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government in Circular No. WPRR 03/09 which stated:

For the purposes of the above Regulations, only those landfills which were not subject to specific authorisation & closed during the period 1977-1996 needed to be entered on the register.

Following discussions between the Regional Waste Management Planning Offices (RWMPOs), EPA & National Waste Collection Permit Office (NWCPO) it was formally agreed between the EPA and the NWCPO, in December 2019, that the register would migrate over to the NWCPO portal.

The register currently being developed by the NWCPO will provide comprehensive details in relation to the “closed landfills”. It will record details of the current status of all other sites which were originally included in the Section 22 register.

NWCPO are, therefore, in a transition period, and they hope to complete the migration in the coming weeks.

As you are aware, access to the register has always been restricted to certain EPA and Local Authority staff, and NWCPO’s intention as part of the migration is to maintain those restrictions.

(2) Access

However, you can gain access to the content of the register, as there is already published data available in this regard.

The three current Regional Waste Management Plans (2015 – 2021), which are statutory documents, each include an appendix detailing the unregulated waste disposal sites listed on the register in the respective region. These plans can be downloaded from the following websites:

·         CUR: http://www.curwmo.ie/

·         EMR: http://emwr.ie/emwr-plan/

·         SR: http://www.southernwasteregion.ie/

Furthermore, these three Plans will soon be replaced by a single National Waste Management Plan for a Circular Economy (2022 – 2028), and this Plan which will be published later this year, will contain an update with respect to the register and the progress made over the course of the current three Plans, with respect to addressing the unregulated waste disposal sites on the register.

NWCPO will be in a position to offer an updated list of the sites on the register once they conclude the migration process. While they do not have an exact timeframe for this, they expect that this would be sooner than the publication of the National Plan, which they expect to publish a draft of in June.  

In the event that you are not happy with this decision, you can make an appeal in relation to this matter. You can do so by writing to the Open Data Liaison Officer, Environmental Protection Agency, PO Box 3000, Johnstown Castle Estate, County Wexford or by e-mail to D.Queries@epa.ie.

You should make your appeal within 4 weeks from the date of this notification, where a day is defined as a working day excluding the weekend and public holidays. However, making a late appeal may be permitted in appropriate circumstances. The appeal will involve a complete reconsideration of the matter by a more senior member of the staff of this body.

Kind regards,

Eileen Carroll

Programme Officer I  ICT Team

Office of Communications and Corporate Services, Wexford

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