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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 4 August, 2020

Untreated raw sewage from the equivalent of 120,000 people is being pumped into Irish waters

The Environmental Protection Agency said serious investment is needed.

raw sewage Map of affected areas. Source: EPA

UNTREATED RAW SEWAGE is being pumped into Irish waterways from 44 different urban locations, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report has found.

The EPA report found that sewage from the equivalent of 120,000 people is flowing into coastal areas in every province.

Raw sewage can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses. It can pose a threat to public health and aquatic ecosystems, according to the EPA.

The EPA report on Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2016, released today,  found that there is a need for “significant funding” to address the legacy of underinvestment in infrastructure needed to collect and treat waste water effectively.

The report finds that treatment is inadequate in many areas. Commenting on the report Gerard O’Leary of the EPA’s said that wastewater from over half our population failed to meet environmental standards.

“For many years Ireland failed to address the deficiencies in wastewater treatment.  Substantial and sustained investment is now required to protect our valuable waterways and protect public health.”

The environmental group has also found:

  • There are 50 large areas where waste water was not treated to European Union standards.
  • Four areas where discharges contributed to poor quality bathing waters
  • 12 areas where improvements are needed to protect freshwater pearl mussels
  • 59 areas that are the sole threat to water bodies at risk of not achieving good status
  • 3 areas where disinfection is required to safeguard shellfish habitats

Darragh Page, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said that urgent work is needed to safeguard our water for the future.

He said: “Ireland’s environment is at risk because waste water is not treated to the necessary standards, even though the final deadline to meet these standards was 2005.

New or upgraded treatment systems are required in some areas.  In other areas, there is already sufficient treatment capacity in place, but the management of the treatment systems needs to improve.

The EPA initiated five prosecutions against Irish Water in 2016 for breaches of waste water discharge authorisations. These prosecutions concluded in 2017 and Irish Water was convicted in each case. In total, Irish Water was fined just over €56,000.

Responding to the report, Irish Water said it is working overtime to ensure they treat as much waste water as possible.

Irish Water’s head of asset management, Seán Laffey: “As with drinking water, Irish Water as a single utility can for the first time have an overarching strategy on wastewater. This planned approach will in time deliver sustained benefits in terms of improved compliance in wastewater treatment.

“The lead in time for building or upgrading a wastewater treatment plant can be up to three years to ensure that all planning, regulatory, environmental and statutory obligations are met. Site selection, public consultation and site purchase are also vital parts of the process.”

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