Guidelines on Water Pollution Licencing Legislation

In Ireland, in cases where Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) is not applicable, the control of water pollution is exercised through the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977-1990.

  • City and County councils are the licensing authorities
  • A discharge of wastewater (effluent) to waters (river, stream, lake, estuary etc. and groundwater) or to a municipal sewer can only take place if it is licensed.
  • It is the legal responsibility of the discharger to apply for a licence
  • The characteristics of the discharge must be fully described and the completed application form must be accompanied by scaled drawings showing the layout of the premises, the drainage systems (foul and storm) and the point of discharge.
  • The local authority must make a decision within two months unless it requires further information or clarification.
  • It is prudent to consult with the local authority pollution control officers before making an application.
  • Local authorities cannot grant a licence if there is likely to be a failure to meet a prescribed water quality standard.
  • Local authorities must also respect any international agreements to which Ireland is a signatory and which limit the discharge of specified pollutants to the environment.
  • Where the applicant considers conditions imposed within the licence were impractical, unreasonable or prohibitively expensive to implement  an appeal to An Bord Pleanála within one month from the date of grant (or refusal) of the licence may be made.
  • In the case of a discharge to waters, third parties may appeal.

All licences contain conditions typically specifying:

  • the permitted quality of wastewater discharge
  • maximum allowable volume (per day and per hour)
  • monitoring record keeping and reporting requirements
  • pollution control equipment operation and maintenance
  • spill prevention control measures

Where “a material change” in a process has taken place or if a new process has been introduced, and the resulting wastewater discharge has changed, then any existing licence must be reviewed and, if necessary, a revised licence obtained.  This is a formal process similar to making the original application.  Local authorities also may initiate a review.

Local Authorities are currently initiating reviews of all discharge licences which may impact upon Special Areas of Conservation and Natura 2000 sites.