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Country's largest drinking water treatment plant breached regulations several times in 2023

The regulator of the Uisce Éireann facility in Ballymore Eustace found there were non-compliant concentrations of chemicals discharging into the Liffey.

IRELAND’S LARGEST DRINKING water treatment plant was found to have breached regulations for discharges into the River Liffey on several occasions this past year.

Monitoring reports by Kildare County Council, the regulator of the Uisce Éireann facility in Ballymore Eustace, found there to be non-compliant concentrations of chemicals including aluminum across a number of months in 2023.

The plant supplies water to approximately 50% of the population in Dublin city and the Greater Dublin Area, producing in the region of 300 million litres of clean drinking water per day.

However, throughout last summer, it was found to be non-compliant in how it discharges wastewater into the Liffey at a point in Kildare where locals say flow is not strong enough to dilute the nutrient-dense material, causing impacts on marine life in the river.

Wastewater is created during the water treatment process as chemicals are used to make the raw water, in this case from Blessington Lake (Poulaphouca Reservoir), fit for human consumption.

Kildare County Council told Noteworthy that it continues to wait for a report into how Uisce Éireann intends to resolve the highlighted issues.

The volume of chemicals was found to have exceeded the limits set by the plant’s planning regulations across May to July.

When Kildare County Council was asked if it was satisfied with the plant’s activities, it did not respond directly. It instead told Noteworthy that it highlighted issues on foot of the Uisce Éireann submissions concerning chemical data and was awaiting a response from the plant. A spokesperson said:

A report has been requested from the applicant which demonstrates how they intend to rectify the issues raised.

“This report is currently outstanding and it is understood Uisce Éireann are preparing same for submission. Kildare County Council have requested an update on this.”

The discharge from Ballymore Eustace Drinking Water Treatment Plant is regulated by Kildare County Council via the plant’s planning authorisation. The plant samples the discharge and the River Liffey and the results of this monitoring are submitted to the council for their oversight and enforcement.

Ballymore Eustace-Pic The Ballymore Eustace Trout and Salmon Anglers’ Association said that salmon and trout numbers have decreased in the river. Niall Sargent / Noteworthy Niall Sargent / Noteworthy / Noteworthy

Noteworthy, the crowdfunded community-led investigative platform from The Journal, supports independent and impactful public interest journalism.

‘Hard to get anyone to do anything’

Tommy Deegan, the secretary of the Ballymore Eustace Trout and Salmon Anglers’ Association, is among the locals who have long been raising concerns about the plant.

He said the number of salmon and trout passing through the river “has increasingly decreased” over the years, and is calling for more to be done by authorities to enforce regulations on the plant.

Deegan pointed to a quirk in planning regulations which has meant that the only agency providing oversight for the Ballymore Eustace Water Treatment Plant is the county council. This oversight only arose after Deegan and fellow anglers made submissions to An Bord Pleanála in 2008.

Following this, the planning board agreed to implement conditions for the plant that it must not exceed certain limits on the volume of chemicals being passed into the river.

When contacted, Uisce Éireann said it has undertaken measures to meet its planning conditions. It said this involves the “optimising” chemical and physical treatment process onsite to “improve the quality of the process waters discharged” to the River Liffey. “This is an ongoing process,” it said.

Deegan said the “liquid waste” discharged as a result of the treatment processes need to be addressed by other agencies. “It’s it’s very hard to get anyone to do anything about it,” he said.

He pointed to a survey initiated Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) of the River Liffey’s fish stock in July 2021, which found some species are depleted around Ballymore Eustace.

When contacted by Noteworthy, IFI indeed said that it found that the River Liffey section immediately downstream to the discharge from the Ballymore Eustace water treatment plant had “poor numbers” of brown trout and salmon, but these “improved further downstream” of the plant.

Last summer, IFI secured a prosecution against Uisce Éireann for pollution of the River Liffey in Ballymore Eustace, due to effluent discharged from the water treatment plant.

Uisce Éireann pleaded guilty at Naas District Court to water pollution offences, which dated to June 2022, and was fined €5,000, and ordered to pay an additional €5,500 in costs and expenses.

The company said its disinfection system at the plant had “failed”, leading to the effluent discharge.

It has undertaken an upgrade in light of the court case which will see the plant modernised and improved the water treatment process at the plant, “ensuring raw water continues to be treated to the water quality standards” as required by EU regulations.

Read about the long battle to monitor the Ballymore Eustace plant >>


Is discharge from Ireland’s largest water treatment plant wrecking the Liffey?

By Eoghan Dalton for Noteworthy

Noteworthy is the crowdfunded investigative journalism platform from The Journal. This project was funded by our readers alongside support from our investigative fund. It was conducted in collaboration with The Journal.

What’s next? We also want to dive into river water abstraction rules and investigate why they are so lax for big business. Help fund this work >>

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