Agri-food sector dominates EPA worst offender list

Published by Niall Sargent on

April 18th, 2019

Agri-food companies continue to dominate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) worst offender’s list for regulatory compliance issues.

Five companies are included in the environmental watchdog’s latest National Priority Sites (NPS) list for October 2018 to March 2019.

Two agri-food companies are on the list that targets Irish industrial facilities that had major environmental regulatory compliance issues over this period.

Points are allocated to each site based on compliance data such as complaints, incidents, and non-compliances over the previous six months.

The sites represent less than one per cent of industrial sites licensed by the EPA but account for 21 per cent of complaints received.

Arrow Group, one of Ireland’s largest agri-food companies, is again on the list for noise and odour complaints. The Co Kildare company has appeared on all eight lists to date.

The group first began processing pork and beef in the late 1970s, going on to become Ireland’s largest privately-owned agribusiness group and fifth-largest within this sector in Europe.

Today, the group comprises around 100 companies, including Dawn International, with operating bases in 12 countries worldwide.

Arrow Group is joined on the latest list by another chicken producer Western Brand Group in Co Mayo, whom the EPA included for wastewater management issues.

An analysis by The Green News of the eight lists released since the summer of 2017 reveals that agri-food companies account for over 50 per cent of all inclusions in the combined lists.

All options on the table

In a statement, the EPA told The Green News that licensed sites in the agri-food industry have “dominated the National Priority Sites List”

“The EPA has called on this sector to improve its environmental compliance,” the agency said, with eight of the 15 prosecutions concluded in 2018 against companies in this sector.

The agency “continually engages” with Arrow Group as its NPS scores have “remained persistently high”, the EPA added.

“It is not acceptable for licensed companies to cause a nuisance to their neighbours and the EPA is examining all the enforcement options available to ensure this company complies with its licence,” the statement reads.

The EPA prosecuted Arrow Group for odour nuisance in September 2018 with fines and costs of €24,000 imposed by the courts.

The company has taken some measures to improve odour and noise abatement at the facility, the EPA said, with complaints reduced in 2019 compared to the same period last year.

Rosderra Irish Meats Group has also repeatedly appeared on EPA list, making the grade six times now.

In November 2018 the company pleaded guilty to five charges concerning non-compliant surface water and sewer emissions, inadequate laboratory quality control and failing to maintain monitoring equipment.

A fine of €6,000 and costs of €20,000 was imposed, according to the EPA, with “significant works” now being undertaken on its wastewater treatment plant and refrigeration equipment.

Several companies certified by the Origin Green food sustainability scheme have also been included in previous lists, including Arrabawn Co-operative Society, Carbery Food Ingredients and Dairygold Co-Operative Society.

The other companies on the latest list include Euroflex Teoranta in Co Donegal for issues linked to emissions and waste management.

The East Cork Landfill Site is in trouble with the EPA for poor landfill gas and leachate management.

The fifth and final company on the list is the Arran Chemical Company in Co Roscommon for issues linked to emissions to both the air and groundwater.

Further details of the National Priority Sites scoring system and the list of sites can be found on the EPA website here.  

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London