In July 2003 the staff of the Environment Section moved to new purpose built offices at Unit 9, Cleveragh Business Park, Sligo.
Before this move the staff were located in separate offices with the administrative staff in County Hall and the laboratory staff and technicians located in the Old Jail. This was unsatisfactory from an operational point of view and it resulted in the unnecessary duplication of records, files etc. The new offices were custom fitted for the Environmental Services Department and include laboratories and a meeting room.
The Staff of the Environment Services Section deal with a wide range of issues over a number of ‘programme groups’ including:
In 2003, there were 13 full time staff employed in the section comprising:
Protecting our surface and ground waters from pollution is the primary objective in the water pollution control area. This is governed by the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 & 1990, and Regulations under these Acts. The LG (Water Pollution) Phosphorous Regulations, 1998 were introduced to tackle the increasing problem of eutrophication in Ireland’s rivers and lakes.
These regulations place an obligation on Sligo County Council to maintain the water quality in our county’s ‘satisfactory waters’ and to improve the water quality in ‘unsatisfactory waters’ by 2007. A catchment management approach has been taken by Sligo County Council to achieve this. The County is divided into three main catchments - the Owenmore, which includes Lough Arrow, the Lough Gill, and the Moy Catchments.
Catchment Management involves surveying the area to determine the risk to surface and ground waters, associated with activities in the area. These activities include forestry, farms, septic tanks, industrial discharges and waste water treatment discharges. On completion and analysis of the survey work, measures shall be put in place to minimise the pollution risk from individual activities, and overall policies shall be put in place for each sector.
The work on the Lough Arrow and Lough Gill catchments was co-ordinated by Technical Committees, initiated by Sligo County Council. The Technical Committee members include representatives from Sligo County Council, Leitrim County Council (Lough Gill), Roscommon County Council (Lough Arrow), EPA, North Western Regional Fisheries Board, and I.T. Sligo. Septic tank and farm surveys were completed in 2003 in the Lough Arrow catchment. The septic tanks were categorised according to potential risk of water pollution - low, medium and high. All low and medium risk septic tank owners were contacted with a view to the owners carrying out improvements on their systems.
A guidance document for farmers was drafted in 2003 to highlight and encourage good environmental practices within the farming community, according to local and national policies.
In addition to the above, Environmental Technicians carried out a sampling programme on Lough Gill and Lough Arrow, and the feeder streams entering the lakes. In total, 149 lake samples and 102 feeder stream samples were taken and analysed. The results deemed both Lough Gill and Lough Arrow as having satisfactory water quality.
A sediment study on Lough Arrow initiated in 2002, was completed in 2003. The objectives of the study was to obtain information on the nature of recently deposited sediments in Lough Arrow, with particular reference to phosphorus, and to gain some insight into recent trends in the lake’s ecological development by analyses of short sediment cores. The report found that lake sediments could be a potential contributory source of phosphorus to the water under certain environmental conditions and that data indicated a very low sedimentation rate in the lake.
Evidence from the core analyses indicated that Lough Arrow has become more enriched during the last 90 years, despite recent EPA reports documenting a largely unchanged status. Timely intervention to alter this trend and diminish inputs of phosphorus will be required by all stakeholders.
Recommendations were made on all planning proposals and forestry proposals in all the sensitive catchments, particularly the three mentioned above in County Sligo. The following is a summary of the applications dealt with in 2003:
A large number of pollution complaints including water, waste, air and noise were received in 2003 and they were dealt with on a priority basis based on the potential risk of pollution from the activity or incident. Pollution incidences are dealt with under the LG (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 & 1990, the Air Pollution Act, 1987 and the Waste Management Act, 1996. In 2003, 125 pollution complaints were dealt with: 104 Water Pollution, 5 Air Pollution and 16 Waste Management.
In October 2003, Sligo town and the townlands of Finisklin, Knappaghmore and Ballydoogan, were designated ‘Smoke Free Zones’, under the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale & Distribution of Fuels) Regulations, 2003. Sligo County Council is the Air Pollution Authority for Sligo Borough and county, and is therefore charged with implementing these regulations. In 2003, the concentration was on raising awareness of these regulations through the local media.
A number of Public Relations and educational initiatives took place in 2003 relating to pollution control, including the following:
Under the LG Water Pollution Acts 1977 & 1990, the EC (Quality of Water intended for Human Consumption) Regulations, 1988 and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act, 1992, (Urban Waste Water Treatment) Regulations, 1994, Sligo County Council is responsible for the monitoring of all the County Councils public water supplies, urban waste water treatment plant discharges and industrial discharges. The Council also samples and analyses private wells for the Rural Water Programme. The Council’s water abstraction points are monitored in accordance with the EC (Quality of Surface Waters intended for the abstraction of drinking water) Regulations, 1989.
The County Council is also responsible for ensuring adequate monitoring of rivers, lakes and bathing waters. In 2003 the sampling was carried out by the County Council with the EPA carrying out some monitoring on an agency basis for the County Council. The samples were analysed in Sligo County Council’s Environmental Science Laboratory. The following is a summary of the sampling and analysis that took place in 2003 by or on behalf of the County Council:
|Samples Taken and Analysed||Number|
|Public Water Supply||186|
|Raw Water Supply Source||13|
|Private Well Tests||21|
|Public Well Tests||23|
|Urban Waste Water Treatment Plants||139|
|Licensed Industrial Discharges||34|
The following is the percentage of overall compliance of Sligo’s Drinking Water, in 2003, with the standards under the EC (Quality of Water intended for Human Consumption) Regulations, 1988:
Public Water Supplies - 97% Overall Compliance
Public & Private Group Water Schemes - 90% Overall Compliance
Sligo County retained its Blue Flag status on both Rosses Point beach and Mullaghmore beach in 2003. Blue Flag status was not awarded to Enniscrone beach in 2003, due to a small number of 2002 bathing water samples not complying with the stringent Blue Flag water quality standards. (All 2002 samples complied with the EU Bathing Water standards). Bathing water quality results for all three beaches, in the 2003 season, met the Blue Flag criteria standards, which will influence the 2004 Blue Flag awards.
In February 2003, a pilot scheme for the separate collection of dry recyclable materials took place in a selected area of Sligo town. Householders were invited to purchase a clear plastic bag in which they could put dry recyclable materials including cardboard, newspapers, plastic bottles and aluminium cans, which was collected separately from the ordinary waste. Following the success of this initiative, the scheme was rolled out to all of Sligo Borough and environs. By the end of 2003, other items including magazines, tetrapak and food cans were included in the dry recyclable collection.
At the end of 2003, there were 37 bring bank stations located in Sligo town and county, an increase from 33 in 2002. The new sites were installed in Calry, Beltra, Skreen and Rosses Point. All 37 stations accept clear, brown & green glass and aluminium cans, with 21 accepting plastic bottles. A total of 912 tonnes of glass, 49 tonnes of aluminium cans and 70 tonnes of plastic bottles were recycled from Bring Banks in Sligo in 2003. The programme of upgrading existing Bring Banks continued in 2003 and banks were upgraded in Gurteen, Grange, Enniscrone and Strandhill. The following is a comparison between the 2003 quarterly glass recycling figures for Sligo and those for 2002:
In 2003, Sligo County Council continued to strongly promote home composting as a means to divert significant volumes of organic waste away from landfill. Both composting and vericomposting are effective recycling methods suitable for householders. At the end of 2003, Sligo County Council had sold a total of almost 2,000 home composters to residents in County Sligo.
In May 2003, Sligo County Council facilitated the collection of household hazardous waste. The collection was a success with householders using this opportunity to dispose of domestic hazardous wastes such as paint cans, batteries etc., in an environmentally careful manner.
Under the Connaught Waste Management Plan, two Recycling Centres are to be provided in Sligo, one in Sligo town and one in Tubbercurry. In 2003, Sligo County Council secured Planning Permission (Part VIII) and a Certificate of Registration from the Environmental Protection Agency for a Recycling Centre on council owned land in Tubbercurry. Provision of this recycling facility is subject to funding from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Waste Disposal Sligo, situated in Sligo town, expanded their Civic Amenity Site in 2003, and at the end of the year were accepting newspapers, magazines, plastic bottles, glass bottles and aluminium cans.
Construction & Demolition (C&D) Recycling Facility Sligo must provide a C&D Recycling Facility under the Connaught Waste Management Plan. In 2003, Planning Permission (Part VIII) was refused for a C&D Recycling Facility at the council owned Union Quarry, Ballygawley, Co. Sligo.
The pay per volume (‘pay per bag’) system for the collection of domestic waste continued in 2003, thus continuing the incentive to reduce the waste going into the domestic bin, thus to landfill, and encouraging householders to use the recycling alternatives available. The following is a comparison between the tonnages of Sligo waste sent to the Ballina landfill in 2002 and the reduced tonnages sent in 2003:
Note: The above figures do not include waste that may have been sent to an alternative landfill. Some Sligo waste went to Ballaghaderreen landfill in 2003.
Sligo County Council, under the Waste Management Act, 1996, has a responsibility for the regulation of waste facilities and waste activities, and the enforcement of Regulations made under the Act. These include the Waste Management (Permit) Regulations, 1998, and the Waste Management (Collection Permit) Regulations, 2001. In 2003, Sligo County Council issued 7 Waste Permits to facilities ranging from vehicle dismantlers to the recovery of inert material.
Mayo County Council, the permitting authority for Connaught for the Waste Collection Permits, issued 21 Waste Collection Permits in 2003. For Sligo, bringing the total number of Waste Collection Permits in Sligo to 90 at the end of 2003. Sligo County Council had an input into all applications received relating to Sligo.
The problem of litter in County Sligo continues to be a major challenge for the Council. In 2003, 82 on-thespot fines were issued for littering offences ranging from cigarette wrappings to domestic refuse illegally dumped on public property. Sixteen files were sent to our solicitor for prosecution and by the end of 2003 the Council had secured 7 successful convictions with fines ranging from €20 to €500. In addition 10 Section 9 Notices under the Litter Pollution Act 1997 were issued to private landowners requiring them to clear their lands of litter, which is visible from a public place.
During 2003 Operation Clean Sweep was introduced on a pilot basis in the towns of Tubbercurry and Ballymote. Under section 6 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997, occupiers of premises fronting onto the footway within the town limits are obliged to keep the area in front of their premises free of litter. Not to do so is an offence and can attract a fine of €125.00. Operation Clean Sweep involved the Environmental Awareness Officer visiting local business in both towns and advising them of their obligations under the Litter Pollution Act. This was followed by twice weekly inspections by the Litter Warden. In general business people co-operated fully with the Litter Warden and the whole operation helped to increase peoples’ awareness of the problem as well as their own obligations with regard to litter. It also resulted in cleaner streets! It is hoped that Operation Clean Sweep will be expanded into Collooney and Grange in 2004.
Towards the end of 2003 the Litter Warden addressed the problem of illegal signage on approach roads to towns and villages, and a number of on-the-spot fines issued. Under Section 19 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997, the placing of advertising materials on any structures, poles, posts etc. visible from a public place is illegal, save for a few exceptions e.g. election posters, circus posters etc. It is intended that throughout 2004 that the Council’s Policy on advertising signage be developed and that the problem of illegal signs littering the approach roads will be a thing of the past!
In 2003 anti-litter efforts where augmented by increasing awareness, enforcement and street cleaning. The Environmental Awareness Officer tackled this issue during public meetings, along with visits to commercial premises and schools. Other student activities organised in 2003, included visits to illegal dumpsites in local peat land areas to view first hand the destructive effects of littering and dumping. Surveys, project work and presentations where also undertaken in cooperation with the Environmental Awareness Officer.
As usual the month of April was dedicated to promoting the National Anti-litter Campaign, National Spring Clean, in 2003 a total of 105 groups participated in local cleanup events. Sligo County Council also allocated €13,500 to community based projects that focused on anti-litter efforts under the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Governments annual grant scheme.
The Environmental Awareness Officer continued to prioritise responsible waste management as a focus for 2003. This was largely achieved through the provisions of public meetings, school visits, presentations to community and residents groups, and discussion with members of the business community on waste management options. The main areas of discussion included litter management, the waste management hierarchy and 3Rs (reduce, reuse & recycle), composting demonstrations and different methods including vermin-composting, use of local bring banks and how to avail of and use the dry recyclable kerbside collection now accessible in areas of Sligo. Regular use of local media was also extensively employed to promote greater environmental awareness, with numerous articles, interviews and advertisements provided. In particular local media has served to highlight issues such as illegal dumping and littering.
In 2003, 12 new schools registered with the Green Flag Programme. From a total of 63 national schools in Co. Sligo, this brings the percentage involved in this environmental programme to 44%. Flags are awarded to schools that embody progressive waste management strategies, gain litter free status, become energy aware and make efforts to conserve and protect water sources. This programme is designed to change fundamental attitudes amongst young people to the problems of waste, litter energy and water wastage.
In 2003, four new Green Flags where awarded by Minister of State in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Pat “the Cope” Gallagher to Killavil N.S. Ballymote, St. Molaise’s N.S. Grange, Stokane N.S., Enniscrone and St. Enda N.S., Carrarroe. This brings the total number of Green Flags flying in Co. Sligo to eight.
Other national initiatives that were locally promoted throughout 2003 included National Tree Week (March), A Green Christmas Campaign (January) for the recycling of seasonal packaging and shredding of Christmas Trees, National Recycling week (October), Blue Flag Awareness activities during the Summer season also included litter clean ups, beach safety demonstrations along with walk and talk events discussing the coastal features.
During 2003, Sligo County Council provided a Beach Guard Service on 5 beaches - full time on Enniscrone, Mullaghmore and Rosses Point beaches and weekends only on Dunmoran and Streedagh beaches. A beach warden service for Strandhill is also operated throughout the summer months.
Sligo County Council entered into a new 3-year service contract with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) at the beginning of 2003. This contract, which is common to all local authorities, forms the basis of much of the work of the Local Authority Veterinary Service. There are currently 3 abattoirs under the supervision of Sligo County Council. The council is required to carry out pre- and post- slaughter checks on all animals, along with continuous monitoring of hygiene and welfare standards and BSE controls. All 3 abattoirs were audited by the FSAI (Food Safety Authority Ireland) in 2003 on their controls on SRM (Specified Risk Material) and all were placed in top category. Sligo County Council also took part in a pilot programme run by the FSAI and the Local Authority Veterinary Service, which aims to standardise the inspection process nationwide. This involved the introduction of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and new forms. The programme is currently in its second phase and its progress will be reviewed in 2004.
At the end of 2003, one of the three Small Meat Manufacturing plants under the supervision of Sligo County Council was in the final stages of compiling its application to the FSAI for the new national health mark. This involved a considerable investment in time and money by the plant in updating its procedures and documentation. It is hoped that this application will be lodged in early 2004. The FSAI would hope to have all plants registered by the end of 2004. A standardisation programme similar to that introduced in the abattoirs is just getting underway for these plants. Sligo County Council is also participating in this programme.
The inspection of liquid milk producers continued throughout the year. All producers were inspected in 2003 and will be visited again in 2004. The number of producers is expected to fall as the effects of the CAP Mid-Term review filter through in the next 2-3 years.
The Control of Dogs Act, The Control of Horses Act and Sheep Scab orders (Diseases of Animals Act) form the main body of animal welfare legislation.
The dog warden service for Sligo and Leitrim has been operated by the ISPCA for a number of years now. However towards the end of 2003 Leitrim County Council gave notice that they intended to withdraw from the arrangement from January 2004. This will obviously have implications for Sligo. Negotiations took place at the end of 2003 with the ISPCA on the arrangements for 2004. There were a total of 2,535 dog licences issued in 2003. A reminder system will be introduced using the current database and part of the discussions with the ISPCA will include increased enforcement activity.
While stray horses are not a major issue in the county there are concerns in certain areas particularly in the Borough and surrounding areas. With this in mind it was decided during 2003 to introduce new byelaws, which will make enforcement of the Control of Horses Act easier. These byelaws will create control zones in Sligo Borough and in certain other areas of the county. Horses in a control zone will require a licence and electronic identification. Where stray horses are impounded it will be up to the owner to demonstrate that proper facilities exist for stabling/grazing the animal. The byelaws will contain exemptions for certain classes of horse owner. The aim of these byelaws is to target irresponsible horse owners. It is hoped to have these measures adopted in 2004.
Any suspected sheep scab cases will continue to be investigated as reported. The number of reported cases is low. However it is thought that the prevalence of the disease is higher than reported.