Company directors who flout environmental law increasingly the subject of legal action, says EPA

Date released: Jun 19 2014

  • EPA brings nine company directors before the courts for breaches of EPA standards
  • The enforcement expertise and experience of Local Authorities needs to be harnessed to yield more efficient outcomes at a regional level
  • Reduction in odour complaints about EPA regulated activities continues
  • EPA uses its full range of powers to prosecute those who flout the law

The EPA today published its Focus on Environmental Enforcement in Ireland report covering the years 2009 – 2012.  While many government departments, authorities and agencies in Ireland have a statutory role in protecting the environment, the EPA and the 31 local authorities are the principal regulators. Collectively they regulate over 10,000 activities ranging from simple recycling bring bank facilities to landfills and complex industrial facilities. The report assesses Ireland’s enforcement of environmental standards and highlights the challenges the State faces in complying with European requirements for air, water and waste.

Commenting on the report, Gerard O’Leary, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said,

“This assessment shows how strong enforcement protects public health and the environment.  We have seen, for example, a long-term reduction in odour complaints about industrial facilities, and we now have fewer and better managed landfill sites.  Ireland too has seen a drop in open EU environmental infringement cases.”

Meanwhile, the EPA continues to use all of the powers currently at its disposal to prosecute environmental crime and breaches of EPA standards.

“Company directors can be held personally responsible for breaches to environmental standards and the EPA has increasingly brought company directors before the courts in recent years. While there has been over 100 million euros invested by EPA regulated industrial activities in recent years, further investment in waste and wastewater infrastructure is needed to meet our environmental obligations.”

Concluding, Gerard O’Leary said,

“We now have ever more demanding international obligations in Waste and Water.  To meet these obligations effectively, and improve our environment we need the enforcement expertise and experience of Local Authorities to be harnessed to yield more efficient outcomes at regional level.” 

For its part, the EPA will continue to:

Develop and deploy smarter enforcement technologies:
The EPA’s See It? Say it! App launched in 2013 makes it easier for the public to report an environmental incident, for example, so assisting enforcement efforts.

Use e-reporting services:
EPA’s new e-reporting service allows licensees to report their emissions data and environmental incidents to the EPA.  This information is used to target enforcement action, to regulate a wide range of sectors and to provide high quality environmental data for decision making nationally and internationally.

Support local authorities in delivering more effective enforcement at regional level:  
Following the consolidation of water services to one state agency, local authority waste enforcement needs to press ahead and consolidate from 31 authorities to 3 regional teams to deal with serious criminal offenders and deliver enforcement outcomes in a timely manner.

Use risk based enforcement:
The EPA developed the National Inspection Plan for septic tanks, utilizing a risk based approach that concentrated resources on the most important environment risks.

Use the full range of powers:
The EPA has taken legal action at District, Circuit and High Court level.

The report is now available on the EPA web site.


Further information: Niamh Hatchell, Emily Williamson or Annette Cahalane, EPA Media Relations Office 053-917 0770 (24 hours)