The Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) has issued a new Code of Practice which provides guidance to local authorities for developing an enforcement policy to deal with unauthorised waste activities. The Code of Practice came into effect 17 July 2009.
As required by the Ministerial direction*, all 34 local authorities prepared enforcement policies for 2009 by the 31st December 2008. Local authorities will now upgrade their policies in light of the Code of Practice in time for their 2010 enforcement plans.
The Code of Practice is primarily aimed at environmental regulators but will also be of interest to waste operators and the general public. It lists the core requirements for an effective enforcement system as:-
- Detection & identification of potential offences;
- Cessation of the illegal activity as quickly as possible;
- Site clean up & remediation;
- Regulation of the illegal situation
- Imposition of Penalties & Sanctions against the illegal operator.
Administrative measures and responses to unauthorised waste activities may include some or all of the following:
- Directed environmental audits
- Warning letters
- A Statutory Notice
- Revision of a licence/permit
- Refusal of a licence/permit
- Revocation of a licence/permit
- Bond Retention
- Refusal of surrender of the licence/permit
The Code of Practice states that prosecution “aims to address wrongdoing and deter future breaches of environmental legislation”. Environmental regulators generally have powers to summarily prosecute offences in the District Court. Penalties under the EPA and WMA Acts are, on summary conviction are: a fine not exceeding €3,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both. In serious situations, the environmental regulator can propose prosecution to the DPP who may prosecute either summarily or on indictment in the Circuit Court. On conviction on indictment, fines not exceeding €15,000,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or both fine are available under the WMA and EPA Acts.