Discharging hazardous substances and non-hazardous pollutants onto land requires authorisation from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) in accordance with the Groundwater Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 as amended.

Conditions of authorisation

For most farms, authorisation is required for the disposal of waste sheep dip (including cosmetic dips and shampoo) and waste pesticides (including tank washings not sprayed back over the target crop).

Groundwater authorisation conditions include:

  • the identification of the area(s) of land to be used for disposal
  • the method of disposal used
  • essential precautions to be taken and/or conditions under which disposal is to take place (for example: the buffer distance from waterways)
  • the maximum quantity of hazardous substances and non-hazardous pollutants to be disposed of during specified periods of time
  • precautions to be implemented to prevent any pollution of groundwater
  • if necessary, measures for monitoring the groundwater
  • a requirement to maintain records of chemicals used, how much and when

A public register of authorisations is held by the NIEA.

Applying for groundwater authorisation

Complete an application form and send it to NIEA along with the required land maps. On receipt of a completed application, you will be sent an acknowledgment letter.

The target for assessment of applications is four months. More complex applications may take longer than four months. 

If authorisation is refused the applicant may appeal, within 28 days of the decision, to the Water Appeals Commission.


Authorized disposal of hazardous substances and non-hazardous pollutants is a cross-compliance Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) check and subject to inspection by NIEA.

Where applicable, cross-compliance assessment will be in line with the Groundwater Regulations.

NIEA will check if:

  • an authorisation been applied for
  • the conditions of the authorisation have been met
  • records of the disposal of dip have been kept
  • there is a risk of groundwater pollution due to location, maintenance or operation of a sheep dipper

Sheep dipper condition

Sheep dippers must be maintained regardless of whether they are currently in use or not. Dippers should:

  • be leak proof
  • be free from cracks and holes in walls and floor that would allow dip to escape
  • have a sloped post-dip draining pen, to allow excess dip to flow back to the bath
  • existing baths with drain plugs should have the plug permanently sealed unless it leads to an impermeable tank

For further information, contact the Groundwater Authorisations team.

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