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hall of shame

Cork, Donegal and Galway are being very naughty when it comes to clean water

Those counties have failed to provide adequate sewage treatment facilities to meet EU standards, according to the EPA’s waste water report for 2014.

shutterstock_274904528 Shutterstock / keantian Shutterstock / keantian / keantian

THREE COUNTIES STAND out from the others when it comes to providing adequate sewage treatment facilities in urban areas.

Those counties – Cork, Donegal and Galway – account for over half of the untreated sewage that’s being discharged at 45 urban areas around Ireland.

The information is contained in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Urban Waste Water Treatment Report for 2014.

Director of the EPA Gerard O’Leary says that the report’s findings showcase the need for capital expenditure to be allocated to the worst affected areas.

ger Gerard O'Leary EPA EPA

“A reversal of the decline in capital expenditure seen in recent years is needed to eliminate the discharge of raw sewage from our environment and allow Ireland to meet EU standards,” he said.

Some other key findings of the report include:

  • 143 out of 174 large urban areas, or 82%, achieve the mandatory EU effluent quality standards. That figure has thus improved by 8% in the last two years
  • Waste water discharges contributed to poor bathing quality at seven bathing beaches last year, including Youghal and Rush
  • There is just one seriously polluted river site in the country, at Bredagh Glen in Co Donegal
  • 12 large urban areas did not meet the EU directive’s requirement to provide secondary treatment

  • 21% of incidents at waste water plants were attributed to issues surrounding operation and maintenance

epa1Large urban areas non-compliant with the EU directiveSource: EPA

Click here for a larger image

"The operation and management of existing waste water plants needs to improve," said David Flynn, programme manager with the EPA's environmental enforcement office.

Audits of sewage plants had found in some cases inadequate maintenance and operation of plants and equipment.
One fifth of all pollution incidents at sewage plants could be prevented by better management and operation of treatment plants.


Responding to the results of the report this morning, Irish Water said it is "making significant progress" in addressing the most serious deficiencies in Ireland's wastewater treatment.

Some €320 million has been invested in new and upgraded wastewater infrastructure in 2014 and this year. The company said it expects to invest more than €2 billion in wastewater infrastructure up to 2021.

Irish Water has committed to ending the unacceptable discharge of untreated sewage from 45 locations across the country in that time and to prioritising solutions for 83 wastewater treatment schemes that are currently the subject of European Court of Justice cases against Ireland for longstanding breaches of European Directives.

Head of asset management with Irish Water, Jerry Grant, said the discharge of untreated wastewater will have completely ended by 2021 as a result of the detailed work programme already underway.

He said meeting the compliance challenge nationally will require "significant investment" for years to come.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: The story of ‘NO’ … 15 moments that have defined the Irish Water protest movement

Read: These heartbreaking images show what it’s like to live and work in one of the most polluted cities on earth

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