Additional focus is needed by local authorities in air enforcement and water protection, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA recently 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, however, additional focus is needed in both air enforcement and water protection”.

More action needed

Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr. Tom Ryan, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said:

“In looking across the range of enforcement activities, waste management is where most local authority activities are focused.

“This is not surprising given the breadth of their functions in this area relative to air enforcement. Good work has been completed by local authorities in developing the national air monitoring programme.

However, considering the effect of air quality on human health and wellbeing, more action is needed on air enforcement.

A substantial programme of water inspection was undertaken by the local authorities during the year and these water inspections and investigations led to over 1,000 enforcement actions and a limited number of prosecutions during 2019.

188,000 inspections were done in 2019

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% of these related to waste and litter issues.

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).