Warning over fly-tipping and backyard burning

Significant environmental problems are being caused by people burning waste and using organised fly-tipping to illegally remove their rubbish, it emerged today.

An in-depth-report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the large scale illegal dumping similar to that detected in Co Wicklow before 2002 is no longer taking place.

But Dara Lynott, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said: “Eliminating fly-tipping and backyard burning is the responsibility of everyone.

“This means ensuring your waste is handed over to legitimate waste collectors. Industry, particularly the waste industry, has a responsibility to conduct their business without causing nuisance to their neighbours, to handle waste responsibly and to prevent pollution of groundwater and surface water.”

A 24-hour hotline launched by the EPA last month to target fly-tippers by allowing the public to report large-scale dumping sites and illegal dumps has received 500 complaints.

The agency said it would continue to investigate illegal activities using covert surveillance where necessary.

The report on the enforcement of environmental protection legislation found the EPA received 1,123 complaints related to licensed facilities in 2005 with an increased number relating to the odour wafting from waste transfer stations.

Mr Lynott attributed some of this to household bins, often containing food waste, being emptied less frequently due to an increase in recycling.

The report, which reveals problems uncovered by inspectors at waste and industrial facilities licenced by the EPA, found the courts handed down costs and fines of over €320,000 in 37 prosecutions taken by the environmental watchdog.

But the study, Focus On Environmental Enforcement 2004-2005, found remedial measures taken by the prosecuted companies at a cost of €33m have yielded improved environmental performances at the sites.

“Where there is evidence of serious negligence or wilful disregard for legislation, companies can expect to face the full force of the law where the courts have the power to impose fines of up to €15m,” Mr Lynott said.

Some industries, particularly the food and drink, intensive agriculture and timber treatment sectors, are failing to operate in line with their licence conditions.

Inspectors found poor waste-management practices were identified in eight out of 12 classes of industry.

The report found 18% of waste water generated in Ireland receives no treatment before discharge.

Almost all of Ireland’s urban waste water, regardless of the level of treatment applied, is discharged into estuaries and freshwaters.

The EPA has been targeting local authorities suspected of causing serious pollution due to the discharges from waste water treatment plants, with around 500 complaints about local authority performance investigated.

The study found the quality of drinking water supplied by sanitary authorities was satisfactory during 2004, with the overall rate of compliance with drinking water standards at 96.4%.

But the EPA said a key concern highlighted was the potential risk to water supplies and public health from cryptosporidium. The parasite can cause fever, stomach upsets and diarrhoea and can prove fatal among the young and the elderly.

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