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Irish Water fined after polluting river in Cavan

The judge said the delay in rectifying the issue, and the serious level of pollution, merited a conviction.

The wastewater discharge pipe at Ballinagh River
The wastewater discharge pipe at Ballinagh River
Image: Inland Fisheries Ireland

IRISH WATER HAS been convicted of polluting a river near its wastewater treatment plant at Ballinagh, Co Cavan.

Judge Denis McLaughlin fined the company €2,500 at a sitting of Cavan District Court on 21 April.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) released a statement about the case today.

Senior fisheries environmental officer Ailish Keane gave evidence that she had written to Irish Water on several occasions prior to the incident about failings at the treatment plant, but the company had not acted.

On 20 June 2015, IFI staff noticed effluent entering the Ballinagh River and Keane attended the scene and took samples. These showed very serious pollution of the river coming from the treatment plant, with levels of some pollutants almost 600 times higher than upstream, the IFI said.

Judge McLaughlin refused to consider a plea by the defence counsel to consider a donation to charity, insisting Irish Water’s delay in rectifying the issue, and the serious level of pollution, merited a conviction. He fined the utility €2,500, in addition to costs amounting to €3,917.43.

Ammonia 

The level of ammonia observed downstream in Ballinagh River was 17.9 milligrams per litre – 597 times of the level (0.03 milligrams per litre) measured upstream. The level of suspended solids was 122 milligrams per litre, approximately 3.5 times higher than the plant’s allowed emission limit.

The IFI said that the biological oxygen demand, a measure of bacterial growth in the water, was measured at 223.8 milligrams per litre downstream which is 45 times higher than what is expected in clean unpolluted water, and over 100 times higher than the level of two milligrams per litre observed upstream.

Ballinagh WWTW Effluent Plume Polluted effluent entering the Ballinagh River Source: Inland Fisheries Ireland

Commenting on the case, Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of IFI, said:

Protection of fish stocks and water quality is vital to maintaining an extremely valuable natural resource for the benefit of local and tourist anglers alike.

“Inland Fisheries Ireland is committed to protecting the most vital component of good habitat to fish – high water quality. Our staff will continue to monitor and enforce water quality legislation in order to maintain healthy fish stocks.”

Response

Irish Water told TheJournal.ie it has been working with Cavan County Council to address the compliance failures and carried out six visits in June and July 2015.

The plant was built in the 1960s and the company took over responsibility for it in January 2014.

They say that extensive work has brought the plant into line with compliance targets and they’ve “approved a number of improvements (both operational/maintenance and capital upgrades) to the municipal waste water treatment plant at Ballinagh”.

These include the construction of storm retention facilities, improving the filter stream and increased maintenance.

The utility previously admitted to accidentally polluting a stream in Co Louth.

Read: People who have paid water charges won’t get their money back – Fianna Fáil TD

Poll: Will you pay your next Irish Water bill?

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Órla Ryan

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