The number of organisations flouting their environmental permits in Scotland continues to decline, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
In its annual assessment of sites issued with licenses under the pollution prevention and control, waste management and controlled activity regimes, SEPA has revealed that 87% were operating in compliance with their environmental permits last year, up from 85% in 2010.
At the other end of the scale, SEPA confirmed the number of sites deemed to be “at risk” had almost halved, falling from 9% to 5%
Calum MacDonald, SEPA's director of operations described the outcome of the assessment as “very encouraging” and issued a warning to those organisations that continue fail to meet the conditions of their permits.
“The results show operator compliance continues to improve year-on-year, and support our ongoing objective to protect and improve Scotland’s environment,” he said.
“However … a minority of operators are still not taking their environmental responsibilities seriously. Although we are committed to helping these operators achieve acceptable levels of compliance, we will not tolerate consistent failure at meeting our standards and will not shy away from enforcement action if, or when, necessary.”
During 2011 SEPA introduced a risk-based assessment regime and cut the number of sites being inspected to 2,691, down from 4,075 in 2010.
The new approach determines how often sites should be inspected based on how hazardous the activities at the site are, the level of risk to the environment and the operator’s previous performance.
The new system means that sites deemed as being the lowest-risk, such as dry cleaners, will now only be assessed every five years.
The change was made to enable the regulator to concentrate inspections on the sites that need them most and would seem to explain why, despite increased compliance overall, the number of sites rated as “excellent” fell from 72% to 67%, and the proportion of sites rated as “poor” and “very poor” increased year-on-year from 5% and 1% respectively, to 6% and 2%.
“Although [the risk-based assessment] has reduced the overall number of inspections, it has resulted in more targeted, effective action against offenders,” he said. “The approach demonstrates our commitment to delivering better environmental regulation and has proven the benefits of prioritising activity on a risk-assessed basis.”