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Dublin: 6°C Wednesday 19 January 2022

'I don't believe they'll fix it by 2024': Irish Water inspects raw sewage spilling into Doldrum Bay

“They’ve failed to keep any of their promises to date,” one local said of the water utility.

Image: Patrick Jackson

IRISH WATER HAS begun inspecting a site where raw sewage from dozens of Howth homes is spilling into Doldrum Bay, Dublin.

Raw sewage from around 40 houses located near the Howth beach has been spilling into the bay, resulting in plastic and sanitary products gathering on the beach.

Doldrum Bay is one of 36 towns and cities around Ireland where untreated sewage constantly flows into the environment. 

Locals who regularly use the Bay have been calling on Irish Water to take action since 2011; yesterday, the water utility began a site investigation to try to end what it called “the unacceptable practice of discharging wastewater into Doldrum Bay”. 

Local Green Party councillor​ David Healy ​says the ongoing sewage discharge into Doldrum Bay, Howth was supposed to have ended by December 2011​.

He says the ongoing issue is a source of deep frustration for local people who wish to enjoy the beach, many of whom would pick periwinkles and the like. Healy said the only reason Irish Water is now promising to deal with the outfall is because of tireless work by local campaigners.

“The waste is coming from between 20-40 homes and is a mix of raw sewage and waste from septic tanks. The main sewage system is above the beach on the hill. It is not beyond the ability of Irish Water to pump this waste up into the main system,” said Healy.

Patrick Jackson, a resident who has been very vocal on this issue, told TheJournal.ie that he has little faith that something will be done quickly by Irish Water.

“They’ve failed to keep any of their promises to date,” he said, adding that he didn’t have any faith in the latest investigation.

Four years ago, Irish Water put a pipe in place that moved the raw sewage out to the low-tide line, or as Jackson puts it, “they moved the shit off the beach”. That pipe moved the effluent around 100 yards further out into the rock pools.

However, bathers still walk through that section when using the bay. The sewage issue is now one of Irish Water’s projects, but Jackson adds that “since the very beginning”, they’ve said “don’t worry, we’re on the case”, and done nothing.

What they do is they commission a report, and they do a very nice report, and then they come away and say, ‘We’ve discovered a solution’, when everybody knows the solution, and then nothing happens. And then the next thing is the report is expired.

“I don’t believe that when they say 2024, based on everything else that has happened, I don’t believe that at all. And everyone around here has had enough of it.”

Source: GreenPartyIreland/YouTube

He says that people go swimming in the “beautiful, often photographed” bay because they’re not aware of the issue – this is despite other beaches being a few hundred yards away.

Among the popular local swimming spots near Doldrum Bay are Jameson’s Beach, a bathing spot known locally as ‘the Nun’s Beach’, and ‘Baileys Jumps’. A Blue Flag beach at Portmarnock is also not far away.

Locals are also concerned about how the raw sewage will affect the natural wildlife in the Bay, as it’s part of a UNESCO Dublin Bay biosphere, and Howth is a Special Amenity Area.

Irish Water says that it has identified a “preferred” solution, which involves new sewers and two new pumping stations pumping the stream into the existing sewer network in Howth and onwards to the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

The reason why it will take until 2024 to complete this work, Irish Water explains:

The proposed works will require planning permission and Irish Water is currently preparing the application and progressing through the detailed design phase. 

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“However, before we can apply for this permission we will need to acquire the necessary land and wayleaves for the pipes and pumping stations. It may be necessary to carry out a Compulsory Purchase Order if these cannot be acquired by agreement, and this process is expected to be completed in 2021.”

Irish Water also said that fixing and upgrading its water treatment plants and sewers around Ireland will require “a multi-billion euro investment programme” over many years.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Irish Water said that “Doldrum Bay, Howth has been identified by the EPA as an area with no wastewater treatment from approximately 20 households.”

In 2016, Irish Water completed works to replace the wastewater pipeline at Doldrum Bay as part of a short term solution to address the discharge of ragging, ie. wipes and plastic materials that have been incorrectly disposed of through the wastewater network, and to mitigate the pollution of the beach.

 Irish Water said that since 2014, it has built new wastewater infrastructure for 14 towns and villages across the country, ending the discharge of over 40% or the equivalent of 70,000 wheelie bins of raw sewage, into our rivers, lakes and seas every day. 

“Irish Water is currently progressing projects across 36 areas across Ireland in order to stop the unacceptable discharge of raw sewage,” it said.

It also highlighted its ‘Think Before You Flush’ campaign.

With reporting from Laura Byrne.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy are looking to investigate whether private wastewater works pollute more than public plants. If you would like to read a piece on this, you can fund the proposal here

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