The EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) has published its Focus on Landfilling in Ireland report.
The report examines the standards of operation and management at landfills in Ireland and charts the progress made since the EPA began licensing this sector 15 years ago.
Commenting on the report, Mr. Dara Lynott, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said - “Regulation of the waste sector has been a driver for improved standards and better environmental outcomes. Landfills are subject to a rigorous enforcement regime, without which we would have more pollution.”
The report charts the fall in the number of municipal waste landfills over the last 15 years - falling from almost 100 landfills in 1995 to 30 facilities today, all of which are licenced to operate by the EPA. During this time, there has been a dramatic improvement in the performance indicators for landfills - as shown in the table below.
This EPA report also sets out the challenge facing Ireland to divert enough biodegradable waste from landfills to meet increasing targets set by Europe. Additional waste infrastructure will be needed to treat this kind of waste and more markets needed for the resulting compost.
Mr Lynott said - “Over a million tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste went to landfill in 2008 and this figure has to drop by 750,000 in 2016 to meet EU targets.”
The report highlights the compliance and enforcement issues that remain with this sector - in particular the fact that 71 per cent of all complaints against licensed facilities related to odour nuisance.
In response to these compliance issues this EPA reports shows -
* 15 landfill operators were prosecuted between 2001 and 2009. Fines and costs totalled €261,188.
* 434 audits and inspections of landfills were undertaken by EPA inspectors in 2008/2009 in addition to almost 200 monitoring visits to sample surface water, groundwater, leachate and landfill gas.
* 207 Notices of Non-Compliance were issued to landfills in 2008/2009.
The EPA has identified compliance priorities for the landfill sector that will be the focus of its enforcement effort.
Kieran O’ Brien, Programme Manager in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said - “Future EPA enforcement effort will be targeted at compliance priorities to ensure that Ireland fully complies with EU obligations under the landfill directive and achieves successful outcomes for our environment.”
The compliance priorities include:
* Diversion of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) away from landfill;
* Management of landfill gas and odour;
* Financial provision for environmental liabilities - and
* Dealing with legacy landfills.
Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 29 April 1999 on the landfill of waste imposes minimum standards for landfilling on EU Member States. The Landfill Directive came into effect on the 16th July 2001 and all landfills were required to comply with its general technical requirements by 16th July 2009 at the latest.
The first Landfill Directive target for diversion of biodegradable municipal waste applies from the 16th July 2010 for Ireland. In 2008, 1,196,044 tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste were landfilled.
Synopsis of compliance priorities
* Landfilling of BMW results in high emissions of methane which is a greenhouse gas and a potential source of odour nuisance.
* Ireland faces daily fines for non-compliance with Landfill Directive targets for diversion of BMW from landfill.
* Almost 1.2 million tonnes of BMW were landfilled in 2008; just 0.916 million tonnes can be landfilled in 2010, reducing to 0.610 million tonnes in 2013 and 0.427 million tonnes in 2016.
* The landfilling of waste produces landfill gas which poses an environmental risk if not managed properly.
* Landfill gas must either be collected and used to produce energy, or flared according to EPA guidance.
* Landfill gas is odorous and accounted for 71% of all complaints in relation to licensed facilities in 2009.
Environmental Liabilities and Financial provision
* Decommissioned landfills continue to pose an environmental risk and require proper * Significant financial provision is required to fund closure, restoration and aftercare costs.
* Landfill gate fees have declined by one-third between 2004 and 2008, which raises concerns in relation to funding of closure, restoration and aftercare costs, in particular.
* Over 300 landfills were operated by local authorities between 1977 and 1997 without specific authorisation. These have now been registered by the local authorities and the EPA is in the process of risk assessment and permitting.