With regard to detection of air pollution, ambient air quality monitoring and assessment in Ireland is carried out in accordance with the requirements of Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, also known as the CAFE Directive. The CAFE Directive which consolidated and replaced the earlier Air Quality Framework Directive and the first three so-called “daughter” Directives, sets limit values/target values for the following pollutants: Sulphur Dioxide; Nitrogen Dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen; Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5); Lead; Benzene; Carbon Monoxide; and Ozone. In addition, the Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Ambient Air Regulations 2009 transpose the fourth “daughter” Directive 2004/107/EC and specify target values and monitoring requirements for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
The EPA publishes a comprehensive annual report on air quality, based primarily on the monitoring requirements of the CAFE Directive. The most recent report, Air Quality in Ireland 2011 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality, was published in September 2012 and provides an assessment of air quality in Ireland for 2011, compared to the CAFE Directive standards, based on data obtained from the 29 monitoring stations that form the national ambient air quality network. The Report confirmed that air quality in Ireland is of a high standard, with no individual exceedances of EU limit values recorded for 2011.
However, the EPA's latest figures on air pollutants responsible for long-range transboundary air pollution such as acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone pollution, published in February 2013, suggests that emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) were above the specified emission ceiling in 2011, caused primarily by emissions from the transport sector.
In respect of monitoring of water quality, the EPA, local authorities, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Marine Institute all monitor rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters plus ground-water quality under the Water Framework Directive on a three-year cycle. This extensive monitoring programme provides a good overview of current water quality and trends as they develop.
Water quality trends emerging in recent years include a notable decline in the incidence of serious pollution events from 39 sites in the 2004-2006 period, to 20 sites in the 2007-2009 period and currently down to 11 sites. There has also been a stabilisation in the length of river channel regarded as unpolluted, at approximately 71% of the length surveyed. However, the period has also been marked by a steady decline in the number of river sites at high ecological status.
Comprehensive reports on water quality are published every three years by the EPA and are available for download at www.epa.ie.