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Minister pauses all routine DAERA inspections

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Minister Edwin Poots pauses all routine 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. It also takes pressure off businesses, industry and utility service providers, who are working extremely hard to ensure the economy and our utility services keep going where possible.

Minister Poots said: “COVID-19 is placing a lot of pressure on various parts of our business, industry and utility sectors and we must do all we can to relieve that pressure and minimise the amount of time that inspectors and workers come into contact with each other.”

Inspections paused by NIEA, VSAHG, FFG and Marine and Fisheries Division include routine inspections under public health protection, pollution prevention and control of industrial emissions, waste and water regulations, the ABP and TSE regulations and some marine and fisheries activities.

“Pausing routine inspections in the short term will help the sector plan better and have clarity on what is expected from them during COVID-19. It also means we can direct the Department’s resources in the best and most effective way.

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

Inspections / investigations paused include:

– The routine inspection programme of major industrial installations
– Reports concerning alleged 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 NI 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 will be paused

Plant Health

– Non-essential plant health inspections
– All routine forestry grant schemes inspections

VSAHG

– All routine Animal By-Products and Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies inspections, supervisions and feed sampling
– All routine artificial reproduction inspections and audits
– All routine Agri-food non-farm inspections for a period up to 30 April 2020
– Food Business Operator (FBO) routine Compliance Audits for all food business establishments with a Good or Generally Satisfactory
– Third Country compliance audits in abattoirs
– All routine zoo and wildlife licence inspections

Inspections continuing include:

– Any reported incidents where there is a risk to human or animal health & 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 the Department’s fly tipping contract, including reports of dumped carcasses;
– Administrative inspections of waste movements;
– Regulation of NI Water with some relaxation of their monitoring programme;
– Regulation of private water supply sites through the risk management process;
– Targeted surveillance and inspections in identified higher risk locations with the potential to impact on drinking water supplies;
– Response to complaints/ significant environmental incidents in marine areas, which may require site visits;
– Satellite fishing vessel monitoring and vessel logging in harbours;
– Live fish movement certification scheme;
– Glass eel inspections;
– Reports of fish kills and, or illegal fishing;
– Incidents in relation to animal welfare;
– Port sanitary and phytosanitary inspections with additional safeguards put in place to protect all personnel (staff & customers);
– Inspections necessary to maintain food supplies, protect public health and enable export trade facilitation and certification;
– Response to incidents and complaints where breaches of Animal By Products (ABP) or Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) Regulations are suspected to ensure public health, animal health and environmental protection is maintained
– Plant health inspections in support of certification and trade in plant products; and regulatory response to serious plant pest outbreaks;
– National Residue Control plan and sampling of C1 seed for certification. Essential reactive inspections / investigations will continue where a risk to food and feed safety is suspected.
– Incidents of a serious nature relating to dangerous wild animals, wildlife crime, wildfires and alien species.
– The position will be kept under constant review as the situation develops and a further announcement on routine inspections will be taken by 30 April 2020.

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