ILLEGAL peat cutting was detected at 48 sites across the country last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed.
The incidents were among 55 investigated by the agency for unauthorised industrial and waste activities during the year.
Enforcement officers are now working on the cases to see if prosecutions should be pursued.
They are also working on a hefty file of complaints about authorised factories and industrial sites.
Bad smells and noise were the top complaints made by members of the public.
Noise complaints more than doubled to 664, just below the 686 complaints made about odours.
The next most troubling issue was air quality which drew 65 complaints, and then water quality which attracted 33.
A total of 1,492 complaints were received about 125 industrial facilities during the year.
That is just over one in seven of the 844 sites licenced and monitored by the EPA.
The EPA said the role of the public in reporting non-compliant or illegal operations was a vital tool in helping to address environmental issues.
"We encourage the public to report any concerns,” it said.
In most cases, complaints are resolved after site visits and advice from EPA inspectors.
In all of 2021, just 13 cases were heard in the courts. They resulted in €125,000 in fines, €180,000 in costs awarded to the EPA and €5,000 in charitable donations.
Some facilities required a lot of visits, however. Nine sites required at least 10 visits and one was visited more than 30 times.
That belonged to the Arrow Group in Naas, Co Kildare where the company has a number of food processing facilities.
It was the subject of repeated odour and noise complaints and spent a second year on the EPA’s national priority sites list which targets it for particular attention.
Three other companies were on the list for the second year: Arran Chemical Company, Saint Gobain Construction Products and Tipperary Cooperative Creamery.
Eight of the 11 sites that made the list last year were in the food and drink and intensive agriculture industries.
“These sectors must improve if Ireland is to support its green image of sustainable food and drink production,” said Darragh Page, of the EPA’s office of environmental enforcement.
“Our enforcement objective is to ensure these sites resolve the environmental issues and for the sites to return to compliance.”