August 4th, 2017
Ireland’s environmental watchdog has ordered Kilkenny County Council to investigate potential contamination of the River Nore by discharge from a Council street sweeping truck.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for the investigation after video footage emerged of a street sweeping truck emptying a liquid substance into the river in April 2016.
The incident occurred along the Canal Walk, which passes alongside the County’s most famous landmark, Kilkenny Castle.
The river forms part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats.
It is both a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area, the latter due to the Nore’s role in supporting the Kingfisher, a threatened species under the EU Birds Directive.
In a statement to The Green News, the EPA confirmed that it received an anonymous complaint in July 2017 in relation to the footage.
The EPA said that it has requested the council to investigate the complaint, with a report from the council’s Environment Section set to be delivered by 11 August 2017.
The Council’s Director of Services Tim Butler confirmed the incident, stating that the liquid disposed of was “excess surface water from street sweeping activities”.
He added that the composition is “similar to run off after any rainfall events.”
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is also waiting for a “full written report” from the Council’s Sanitary Services regarding the “volumes and further details/constituents of the discharge”.
In a statement to The Green News, the NPWS confirmed that it “received an undertaking that this practice will never happen again” from the Council’s Sanitary Services.
An extensive street sweeping programme occurs throughout the county and the main town and villages are swept at least once a month.
Street sweepers spray roads with stored water to remove dust particles, with this wet mixture then sucked into the machine where the solids and liquid are separated.
As the tanks fill – which is more frequent in wet weather – they need to be emptied at intervals.
However, according to the NPWS, this is “normally carried out at the council depot” as water discharge will “contain any contaminants which are normally found on the road surface”.
In response to an Access to Information Request sent last year, the Council confirmed that it is normal procedure that “street cleaning content is returned back to our depot”.
The material is then stored in a skip until it is collected by a waste facility company, the Council’s reply states.
Save Kilkenny, a local campaign group, said that the Council’s response to the case to date has been “really quite outrageous”.
“People locally have had enough particularly when the problem clearly is the council itself who now we are being told will investigate themselves,” a statement from the group said.
The group added that the river has been “seriously degraded” in recent decades through a 500-litre oil spillage from a local brewery in the 1980s, drainage schemes in the 2000s, as well as the controversial Kilkenny central access scheme (CAS).
The CAS, which opened in May 2017 and cost in the region of €20m, involved the building of a new road and concrete bridge over the Nore close to the centre of Kilkenny City.
However, a 2014 ecological report carried out on behalf of the project’s contractor found that both the work area and downstream were “adversely affected” by the works at the crossing point.
According to the report, large quantities of limestone were recorded on both sides of the river, with the right side “denuded and covered with limestone aggregate.”
“The riverbed within the footprint of the works has been significantly altered,” the report concluded.
In September 2014, the High Court ordered an interim injunction halting construction on the bridge due to concerns that a temporary access causeway to help in the bridge’s construction was causing environmental harm to the river.
“This has been a generational assault on our local environment,” Save Kilkenny said. “The river needs healing and needs the authorities to protect it.”