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Sewage that could fill two Olympic swimming pools flowed into Malahide marina, court hears

Irish Water pleaded guilty to offences under the Waste Water Discharge regulations.

Malahide Marina
Malahide Marina
Image: Shutterstock/abd

MALAHIDE MARINA WAS polluted with enough raw sewage to fill two and a half Olympic-size swimming pools following a water treatment malfunction, a court has heard.

Irish Water pleaded guilty to offences under the Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations 2007, at Strand Road, Malahide, Co. Dublin, over the weekend of April 28, 2018.

The case was brought by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and came before Judge Anthony Halpin at Dublin District Court today.

Irish Water admitted it did not take corrective actions or notify the EPA about the incident as soon as practicable.

EPA inspector Brendan Kissane told Judge Halpin the plant was manned full-time Monday to Fridays and used three pumps: a standby pump, a duty pump and an assist pump. One of them was removed and four days later the other two pumps failed, on April 28, a Saturday.

As a result, sewage did not get treated but instead went into two tanks which then overflowed and the sewage ran into the marina.

The treatment facility was inspected on the Saturday but the pump failure problem was not detected. It was noticed the next day but Irish Water could not get assistance to fix the pumps.

It carried on until the next morning when a temporary pump was installed.

Judge Halpin heard it was estimated some 6,700 cubic metres of sewage went into the marina over a 43-hour period, enough to fill two and a half Olympic-size swimming pools.

An alarm had gone off and an employee who inspected the facility over the weekend thought the “pumps looked right” and did not detect that there was no flow into the treatment plant.

Aerial photos of the pollution in the marina were handed into court.

Sampling by Fingal County Council, on behalf of Irish Water, found four mgs of mould per litre in the marina’s water two days later.

The sewage pollution caused possible interference with amenities but the untreated water would have been discharged out into the Irish Sea

The EPA inspector agreed with defence counsel Eoghan Cole that it did not result in a fish kill.

Irish Water took over the facility from Fingal County Council in 2014 but the council still operated the plant under contract from Irish Water.

He agreed that a staff member made an erroneous decision on the Saturday that intervention was not required. The problem was detected the following day and properly repaired on the Monday.

He also accepted that Irish Water now had a spare pump on site.

In a mitigation plea, Mr Cole asked the judge to note it had not happened as a result of an institutional failure.

Prosecuting solicitor Jason Teahan said Irish Water had 14 prior convictions for similar offences, which resulted in fines.

However, Mr Cole pointed out those cases involved inadequate treatment plants.

Judge Halpin convicted Irish Water and fined the company €1,500. He also ordered it to pay €850 to the EPA for its expenses, and a further €5,000 toward legal costs.

In October, the national water company pleaded guilty in another EPA prosecution over drinking water problems in Co Cork. Judge Halpin has adjourned that case for facts, and a mitigation plea, to be given at a sentence hearing on January 8 next.

In that prosecution, it faces charges following a direction given on June 5, 2015 by the EPA in respect of supply of drinking water at Drimoleague and Kealkill.

It was alleged Irish Water failed to submit final reports to the EPA before the end of 2018, verifying that trihalomethanes (THMs) levels were not excessive.

THMs, which can have a can have possible carcinogenic effects if consumed over long periods, are a bi-product of chlorination to disinfect ground water which makes its way into the supply.

Comments are off as legal proceedings are ongoing.

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Tom Tuite

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