EPA issues warning over food and drink sector's industrial pollution

The environmental group carried out 22 successful prosecutions last year

EPA issues warning over food and drink sector's industrial pollution

Cattle on a farm on the Shannon River above Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim | Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Agri-Food sector is Ireland's worst offender when it comes to polluting the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency this morning published its latest report on industrial waste in Ireland.

The environmental group carried out 22 successful prosecutions last year resulting in fines of over €374,000.

The food and drink sector had the highest rate of compliance issues.

Mary Gurrie from the EPA, says the sector may be a victim of its own success:

"The recent expansion of that sector in terms of the dairy plants and some of the slaughtering plants - some of them have not made the necessary investment in advance and have not put the effort into ensuring the can comply with the licence," she said.

"I suppose the increased activity is giving rise to a risk of more things like nuisance odours and noise - so we are seeing an increased number of complaints about those sites."

The EPA carried out 1500 inspections last year – the vast majority of which were unannounced. Six sites were inspected 20 or more times - two of which were inspected 49 times.

Water protection remains a key concern for the EPA with many of the issues highlighted in the report relating to water pollution.

Since 2017 the EPA has been publishing its list of National Priority Sites - which identifies the worst offenders for environmental compliance.

The Agri-food sector makes up 11 of the 19 sites on the list.

The latest update was published in April 2018. The top five sites on the list are:

  • Rosderra Irish Meats Group in Edenderry, Offaly
  • Arrow Group in Kildare
  • Western Brand Group Limited in Mayo
  • Lacpatrick Dairies Ltd in Monaghan
  • Starrus Eco Holdings Limited in Cork

Ms Gurrie said two of the sites on the list are there "primarily because of nuisance - causing odour and noise complaints."

"The remainder are largely due to poor management practices on site and in particular issues with their waste water treatment plants.

"They can't meet their limits that are set in the licence and there is a potential risk to water pollution."

The EPA report also found that 54% of industrial and waste site were compliant with their licence in 2017 - up from 45% in 2016.

With reporting from Juliette Gash ...