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Environmental Protection Agency declares 11 sites National Priority Sites in 2019

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Ireland

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its 2019 end-of-year statistics, outlining the reach of its work across licensing, enforcement, air quality monitoring, water monitoring, environmental research and the dissemination of information to the public.
 
Of particular note are the following facts and statistics:
 
Licensing
 
  • The EPA issued 132 licensing decisions.
  • This was an increase from 94 in the previous year.
  • In addition, 80 amendments to authorisations were processed.
 
Also of note is the new authorisation system in respect of radiological activities, which came into force in March 2019. It is a tiered system, with a distinguished regulatory process, dependant on the risk category into which the intended licensed activity falls. This system licenses, amongst others, medical, dental and veterinary radiography machinery, x-ray machinery, machinery used at airports for baggage screening and machinery used for educational purposes in universities.
 
The new system provides for two forms of authorisation: registration and licensing. The form of authorisation which will apply in any given situation will depend on the magnitude and likelihood of any exposures resulting from the practices and the impact that regulatory control may have in improving radiological safety. This is a welcome development, given how variable radiological activities can be. Further information on the new system is available here. In 2019, the EPA issued:
 
  • 1304 radiological authorisations, comprising 1268 renewal authorisations and 36 new authorisations; and
  • 1168 technical amendments of radiological authorisations.
 
 
Enforcement 
 
Complaints
In July 2019, the EPA reported overall good levels of compliance by industrial and waste licensees with the conditions of their licences.
 
  • Licensed activities complaints reduced to 685 in 2019, compared with 897 in 2018.
  • Over half of the complaints received related to odour, a quarter related to noise and over one third related to just three sites.
 
 
 
Inspections
The EPA carries out routine inspections throughout the year of licensed facilities around the country. In 2019, the EPA carried out:
 
  • 1485 visits to industrial, waste, dumping at sea and volatile organic compound sites;
  • 299 visits to urban wastewater sites;
  • 62 visits to drinking water sites; and
  • 80 inspections of Radiological Licensees.
 
National Priority Sites
Facilities which consistently fail to meet the environmental standards expected of them are engaged with on a recurring basis by the EPA, with a view to ensuring improvement and full compliance with the licence. Such facilities may end up on the List of National Priority Sites maintained by the EPA.
 
  • In 2019, the EPA added 11 new National Priority Sites.
  • The food and drink and waste sectors accounted for the majority of sites on the list.
 
Prosecutions
 
  • In 2019, the EPA concluded 12 prosecutions against licensees and entities that were in breach of their obligations. These prosecutions were taken in the various District Courts around the country.
 
Air Quality Monitoring
 
In 2019, 19 new air quality monitoring stations were added to the Irish network. These provide vital information to communities around the Country. Given the relationship between health and air quality, this information is likely to be particularly welcomed by those with health issues.  
 
Coinciding with World Lung Day in September 2019, the EPA published its annual air quality report for 2018 indicating air quality complied with EU legal standards but exceeded guideline values set by the World Health Organization. This report can be accessed here
 
Water Monitoring
 
Throughout 2019, the EPA continued its monitoring of rivers, lakes, groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters around the country. Through this monitoring, the EPA concluded that the quality of our aquatic environment is declining. This is following a period of relative stability and improvement.
 
  • The monitoring has showed continued loss of pristine river water bodies in Ireland.
  • The monitoring showed that there are now just 20 remaining pristine river sites, down from over 500 sites in the late 1980s.
 
 
Information and Research
 
Through these statistics, the EPA is engaging in its function of disseminating relevant information to the public. In 2019, the EPA:
 
  • Held 1,160,132 information sessions on its website;
  • Responded to 2,411 queries from the public;
  • Processed 84 access to information requests;
  • Processed 65 freedom of information requests; and
  • Published 43 research reports, in the areas of water, climate and sustainability.
 
The full EPA statistics can be accessed here

Written by Zoe Richardson and Gráinne O'Callaghan
 

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