EPA – 2016 A year of progress – and challenges ahead that require input of all sectors and all citizens

The EPA Year in Review 2016 shows that while we have made much progress on environmental issues in Ireland, we now face complex challenges that require the input of all sectors and all citizens. This was underlined by the publication last year of the sixth State of the Environment  report. The report showed that the state of the environment is good – but a highly qualified good, according to EPA Director General Laura Burke.

“The report points to worrying signals at a local level about many parts of our natural environment.  The State and all its citizens need to act with a much greater sense of urgency if we are to protect what we now have. We require transformational change to deal with climate change and other risks to our health and natural environment.”

Internationally, meanwhile, 2016 was dominated by The Paris Climate Change Agreement. Ireland has signed up to the agreement and meeting commitments will provide a significant challenge between now and 2030.  The EPA launched its new Strategic Plan to provide clear focus for the Agency’s work between now and 2020 to deal with these challenges.

Last year also, the EPA focused attention on the need for increased air quality monitoring and launched a consultation on the proposed National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme.  Air pollution poses a growing threat to our health and wellbeing according to the EPA.

“While Ireland did not exceed any legal EU limit values for ambient air quality,” Ms Burke said, “the EPA is calling for the adoption of stricter air quality guidelines.”

Enforcement is a core function of the EPA, regulating over 800 large industrial and waste sites. During 2016, the EPA conducted 1,539 site visits including detailed inspections and air, water and noise monitoring.  It also made enforcement information about licensed sites available online at http://www.epa.ie/licensing/

“Queries and complaints from the public are a valuable source of information for EPA enforcement activity,” said Ms Burke.  “Almost 1,100 complaints about licensed facilities were received in 2016 and two-thirds (66%) of these related to odour nuisance. A small number of sites (10) accounted for two thirds (64%) of all complaints received.  We treat all complaints with the utmost seriousness.”

Water quality continues to be a focus for the EPA and throughout 2016, EPA water quality reports consistently highlighted that substantial and sustained capital investment is required to deliver improved water infrastructure in Ireland.

Seeking always to engage citizens and provide ever-greater access to environmental data, during 2016 the EPA added three further elements to its website:

  • www.catchments.ie, an award-winning website that gives people easy access to information about their local water catchment and how they can get involved in its protection;
  • radon.ie(www.epa.ie/radon/)  a new national resource providing practical advice and information to help protect people from the effects of radon, the carcinogenic gas linked to up to 250 cases of lung cancer each year in Ireland; and
  • Livegreen.ie (www.epa.ie/livegreen/) the online resource for householders and families providing trusted and reliable advice and guidance on a range of environmental and health matters.

‘Each of these websites was developed by the EPA with the expert knowledge and assistance of other public bodies, for which we are grateful,’ Laura Burke concluded.

The EPA Year in Review 2016 is available on the EPA website.

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