OFFALY was one of the worst performing local authorities in the country when it came to environmental protection measures and failed when it came to its own governance processes in the areas of waste, water, sanitation. air and noise pollution.
The figures were revealed in the latest report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Since 2006, all local authorities have drawn up annual enforcement plans (NEPs) to improve the organization and efficiency of environmental inspections and enforcement.
Offaly was one of nine local authorities that failed to meet the required standard in more than 30% of their NSPs. The EPA reports that, in general, the lowest-performing local authorities deployed the fewest resources.
Offaly County Council Services Manager Tom Shanahan said: ‘During the period of this plan (2021), a shortfall in staff resources has been identified and combined with the impacts of COVID-19, Offaly County Council, along with other county councils, failed to achieve the ‘strong’ or ‘excellent’ standard. Staff working in these areas have continued to perform well in these confined settings and I would like to thank them for their work to date. ”
According to the EPA report, Offaly failed to meet the required standard in each of the categories below.
Waste control – this includes illegal waste, construction and demolition waste, end of life vehicles and metals, household and commercial waste.
Offaly Local Authority scored moderately on illegal waste and construction and demolition waste. It had only limited results concerning household and commercial waste, end-of-life vehicles and metals.
The EPA recommends greater focus on activities such as: construction sites, soil reclamation facilities, waste haulers, by-product notifications, and unauthorized suspect sites.
It also calls for increased oversight of licensed activities in the end-of-life vehicle, scrap metal and commercial waste sectors. Another objective that local authorities are advised to implement is to improve the detection of illegal waste activities by making greater use of local intelligence rather than only investigating complaints.
Water – According to the report as a whole, water quality is declining across Ireland and the level of enforcement activity is low, with 24% of local authority environmental staff assigned to monitoring and water app in 2021.
Offaly lagged behind and had only limited results in the areas of discharge permits, private water supply, septic systems and agriculture. It scored moderately on water quality monitoring.
The EPA recommends preventing water pollution from agriculture by increasing the number of agricultural inspections in areas most at risk for water quality. He also called for follow-up on issues identified during farm inspections. Monitor all private water supplies and enforce drinking water standards when monitoring identifies non-compliances, in order to protect human health. Additionally, he recommended following up on past septic tank advisories issued to households to repair septic tank systems that fail inspection.
Air and noise inspections – Offaly local authority failed to make the grade here too. It achieved only limited results in the areas of solid fuel combustion, local air and noise issues, air and noise controls in planning assessments and moderate results in monitoring air and in its noise plane.
The EPA recommends targeting inspections of online and mobile fuel vendors and non-compliant fuel products under the Solid Fuel Regulations. He also urged local authorities to use monitoring data to identify air pollution hotspots and prioritize areas for action and to identify unauthorized operators under the Solvents, Decorative Paints Regulations. and oil vapors and take corrective action.
Complaints – Offaly Local Authority has achieved limited results in dealing with complaints. The EPA states that “processes and systems for handling and resolving complaints are a key aspect of environmental governance because complaints are the primary source of detection of illegal activities. Significant resources are needed to deal with complaints. 71% of local authorities have achieved the required standard, but once again Offaly Local Authority languishes at the bottom of the list.
Mr Tom Shanahan said the local authority welcomed the report, saying ”This is the first report under the local authority’s revised performance framework, which aims to better align the scores of performance on delivering environmental results under the National Implementation Priorities (NEPs) which are categories under four themes, including governance processes, waste, water, and air and noise.’ ‘
He continued: ”The aim of this new framework is that all local authorities should be performing at or above all NEPs by the end of the three-year cycle from 2022 to 2024. The Offaly County Council looks forward to advancing our RMCEI (Minimum Recommended Criteria for Environmental Inspections) criteria on these four themes with a view to achieving a higher standard at the end of the review period.