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One fifth of the 1,201 misdemeanour proceedings initiated last year were related to waste activities

In 2019, the Environmental Inspectorate initiated 1,201 misdemeanour proceedings in connection with environmental violations, which include 232 misdemeanour proceedings related to waste activities, an area that has been given particular attention.

‘On the one hand, the Environmental Inspectorate can be commended for its good work. On the other hand, these figures are not something to be happy about,’ said Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk. ‘The number of environmental violations has dramatically decreased since the beginning of the millennium, but has remained more or less the same in recent years. Over the years, the inspectorate has had to work very hard to combat illegal fishing and curb violators of waste management rules.’

‘There are problems in waste management, from piles of waste dumped in forests to illegal transboundary shipments of waste. In 2019, combating waste handlers that do not comply with applicable laws and regulations was a priority for the Environmental Inspectorate,’ said Olav Avarsalu, Director General of the Environmental Inspectorate.
‘Waste management facilities tend to accumulate larger piles of waste (mainly construction and demolition waste) than permitted and fail to sort the waste. If a pile of rubbish that has been dumped in a forest is ugly to look at, then large piles of waste pose serious dangers, from soil contamination to fires. It is also not uncommon for sites with piles of waste to be left to a person who is merely a figurehead, and eventually, the landowner or the state has to clean up the site,’ Avarsalu added.

Comparing the data of 2018 and 2019, the total number of misdemeanour proceedings increased by about 200. The largest increase was in the registration of violations of the Nature Conservation Act and the Fishing Act (58% and 31%, respectively); the number of violations of the Hunting Act increased by 17%. The growth occurred mainly in Tartu County, where the number of misdemeanour proceedings more than doubled during the year. This was due to a conscious focus on identifying possible problems: the inspections carried out in May and June on the one hand and ramping up supervision efforts on the activities of holidaymakers and nature strollers by the River Emajõgi on the other hand.

Of the 24 criminal proceedings initiated in 2019, 14 were related to fishing, of which two proceedings were related to catching crayfish. Half of the cases took place on Lake Peipus . In the field of nature conservation, in addition to cases of illegal felling (of which one case concerned felling in the habitat of a protected species), there was one criminal proceeding where the violation consisted of trade in endangered species. The cases in the field of environmental protection concerned unauthorised mining, dumping of mercury, and transboundary shipments of waste (from Finland to Estonia and from Estonia to Belgium).

The number of fines issued also increased in parallel with the number of proceedings – from 723 to 925; the total amount of fines reached its highest level – 405,040 euros. The increase in the total amount of fines was driven by the high fines issued to legal persons – in 2019, the number of fines exceeding 3,000 euros almost doubled. More than half of these fines were issued for waste management violations. Fines imposed on the basis of the Waste Act make up 36% of the total amount of fines.

Administrative proceedings are carried out to achieve compliance. Administrative proceedings have become, above all, a tool in two areas – of the 573 administrative proceedings initiated in 2019, 50% concerned packaging requirements and 24% concerned waste handling requirements. A third of the administrative proceedings initiated by the Environmental Inspectorate result in issuing a precept, and a penalty payment is imposed in 5% of the cases.

In 2019, the Environmental Inspectorate received 5,405 complaints from citizens, of which 5,019 via the environmental emergency hotline 1313. The number of complaints remained at the same level as in the previous year; the soaring increase that took place in 2018 did not occur in 2019. There were 2,009 complaints about odour nuisance, i.e. 37% of the total number of complaints. Although problems with ambient air near around Tallinn and in Ida-Viru County persist, an example of improvement can be given. An asphalt plant that operated in Väo Quarry, about which 50 complaints were received within three months, ceased to operate at the current location.

Key data on the results of environmental supervision in 2019
The Environmental Inspectorate initiated 24 criminal, 1,201 misdemeanour, and 573 administrative proceedings.
Misdemeanour proceedings in three areas of supervision: environmental protection (water, ambient air, waste, etc.) – 347 proceedings; nature conservation (forest law, hunting, wildlife) – 413 proceedings; fish protection – 441 proceedings. By laws: 1) Fishing Act – 441, 2) Waste Act – 232, 3) Nature Conservation Act – 228.
509 administrative proceedings were initiated in environmental protection, 57 in nature conservation, and 7 in fish protection.
Of the 24 criminal proceedings, 14 concerned fishing (of which 2 concerned catching crayfish); 4 – illegal felling; 2 – damage to a protected object; 1 – environmental pollution; 1 – violation of requirements for chemical and waste management; 2 – violations of requirements for transboundary shipments of waste.
577 protocols were issued for the seizure of fishing gear which do not have marking that would allow to identify the ownership.
Number of fines imposed for misdemeanours: 925
Total amount of fines: 405,040 euros
Precepts issued: 197
Number of environmental damage cases: 124 (preliminary data)
Total environmental damage: 362,900 euros (preliminary data)

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