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File photo. Raw sewage is flowing into our rivers and lakes, the EPA said. Eamonn Farrell/

Raw sewage from 38 towns and villages flowing into our environment, report says

The EPA’s Dr Tom Ryan said our health is being put at risk due to the impact on our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

WASTE WATER FROM 57 areas across Ireland caused significant impacts on our rivers, lakes and coastal waters last year, according to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In its report on Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2017, it finds that Ireland is not investing quickly enough in infrastructure that is needed to treat our waste water. 

While discharges of raw sewage from six urban areas have ceased, raw sewage from the equivalent of 88,000 people in 38 towns and villages is still flowing into the environment today.

Furthermore, waste water treatment at 28 of Ireland’s 179 large towns and cities failed to meet standards set to prevent pollution and protect public health. 

In the case of these 28 towns and cities, the EPA said it accounts for over half of the sewage collected in our public sewers.

EPA’s director of the office of environmental enforcement Dr Tom Ryan said: “It is unacceptable that, 13 years after the final deadline to comply with treatment standards, there are still 28 large towns and cities discharging inadequately treated sewage that fails to meet these standards. 

This is putting our health at risk and is having an impact on our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

The EPA noted that it is “not possible” to fix all the issues with Ireland’s waste water treatment systems in the short-term and a long-term strategy is required to address the shortcomings.

Works are also required to protect 4 beaches with poor quality bathing water at Merrion Strand, Clifden, Loughshinny and Sandymount Strand.

Irish Water is also criticised by the EPA’s Darragh Page who said the company needs to “improve its understanding of the condition and performance of sewers, to help focus sewer upgrade works where they are most urgently needed”.

Plans are afoot for Irish Water to develop a new waste water treatment facility in Clonshaugh to serve the population of north Dublin and parts of Kildare and Meath.

A site in Clonshaugh was identified as the preferred solution, as it was the “most environmentally, socially and technically advantageous solution while also being the most cost-effective option,” according to Irish Water.

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