DAERA provide an update on COVID-19
Published: 04 May 2020

Minister of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots has paused all routine Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) inspections of businesses, industry and utility services until 30 April 2020.

This follows on from an earlier decision to pause routine farm inspections and is a further response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to take pressure off businesses, industry and utility service providers, who are working extremely hard to ensure the economy and utility services keep going where possible. 

However, essential inspections will continue while any reports of incidents with the potential to cause a significant impact on public health, animal health and welfare, plant health or the environment, including the safety of food supplies, illegal waste disposal or impacts on drinking water will be investigated as normal.

This In Focus covers:

Inspections and investigations paused;
Inspections that will continue;
Waste sector works classified as key;
Temporary Regulatory Position Statements and Guidance.

Inspections and investigations paused

The inspections and investigations paused include:

General:

  • routine inspection programmes of major industrial installations;
  • reports concerning illegal waste disposal which have been assessed as low level and low risk;
  • routine compliance monitoring site inspections.

Water:

  • routine Water Regulation inspections;
  • planned routine audits of Northern Ireland Water sites;
  • routine monitoring of private water supplies;
  • routine oil and pesticide storage checks on industrial premises.

Marine:

  • routine inspections of Marine Protected Areas;
  • marine construction, dredging and disposal activities;
  • routine inspections of fishing vessels at sea.

Inland fisheries:

  • routine inspection of commercial and recreational licences;
  • routine inspections for work permitted under the Fisheries Act;
  • routine inspections relating to low severity fish kills;
  • investigations into low level reports of illegal fishing.

Plant Health:

  • non-essential plant health inspections;
  • all routine forestry grant scheme inspections.

Veterinary Service Animal Health Group:

  • routine Animal By-Products and Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies inspections, supervisions and feed sampling;
  • routine artificial reproduction inspections and audits;
  • routine agri-food non-farm inspections;
  • Food Business Operator routine compliance audits for all food business establishments with a "Good" or "Generally Satisfactory" status;
  • Third Country compliance audits in abattoirs;
  • routine zoo and wildlife licence inspections.

Inspections that will continue

The following will continue:

  • any reported incidents where there is a risk to human or animal health and welfare or serious risk to the environment, including:
    • high risk or high impact waste pollution, or
    • offending, or high or medium severity water pollution incidents;
  • incidents of fly tipping requiring use of DAERA’s fly tipping contract, including reports of dumped carcasses;
  • administrative inspections of waste movements;
  • regulation of Northern Ireland Water, with some relaxation of monitoring programmes;
  • regulation of private water supply sites;
  • targeted surveillance and inspections in identified higher risk locations with the potential to impact on drinking water supplies;
  • response to complaints and significant environmental incidents in marine areas;
  • satellite fishing vessel monitoring and vessel logging in harbours;
  • live fish movement certification scheme;
  • glass eel inspections;
  • reports of fish kills and illegal fishing;
  • incidents in relation to animal welfare;
  • port sanitary and phytosanitary inspections;
  • inspections necessary to maintain food supplies, protect public health and enable export trade facilitation and certification;
  • response to breaches of Animal By Products or Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Regulations;
  • plant health inspections;
  • National Residue Control plan and sampling of C1 seed for certification;
  • serious incidents relating to dangerous wild animals, wildlife crime, wildfires and alien species.

Waste sector works classified as key

In addition, the Minister recognised waste sector works as key, during the COVID-19 crisis:

"During this pandemic we must do all we can not to intensify the burden on our public health services. By recycling correctly, putting your waste in the right bin and not dumping unwanted waste we can all play our part - it’s that simple.

"These easy, sensible and practical steps will stop any additional risks to public health and support our waste sector workers who are already under increasing pressure".

Those in the waste industry were also recognised as playing a vital role during the coronavirus outbreak, including those collecting, transporting, treating and disposing of waste.

"Maintaining these critical services is a priority of the Executive. These men and women not only help protect our environment and public health but play a vital role in keeping the supply chain functioning.

"The materials they collect and process, such as cardboard, plastic and glass, are vital resources in package production across our food and retail sectors, so a drop in recycling can impact on the supply chain functioning effectively.

"For these reasons all those working in the waste sector are key workers. I have also established a Covid-19 Waste Group to provide support, guidance and regulatory direction to the waste sector. So please, do what you can to help by putting the right waste in the right place".

Temporary Regulatory Position Statements and Guidance

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have published a series of temporary COVID-19 guidance and Regulatory Position Statements which deal with specific circumstances where they are relaxing normal regulatory requirements to avoid increasing risks to the environment or human health during the particular circumstances of COVID-19.

If you comply with their requirements, and all of your other environmental regulatory requirements, they will not normally take enforcement action against you.

The RPS and guidance published so far include: