Liadh Ní Riada speaking at an environmental event in 2017 Photo: Niall Sargent

Irish Water raw sewage dumping a national embarrassment, says MEP

May 9th, 2018

A Sinn Féin MEP has called for further investigation into Irish Water’s breach of water discharge regulations after the body was found responsible for pumping untreated urban sewage into harbours in countries Cork and Clare.

Liadh Ní Riada, a Cork native, said that the gravity of the issue requires further inspection into the utility company’s systems and standards.

Irish Water received a €9,000 fine last week to pay costs in three prosecutions brought on by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The utility company pleaded guilty before Dublin District Court for breaching surface water and waste-water discharge regulations at three tourist destinations.

Raw sewage contains a variety of bacteria hazardous to the environment and human health. Waste-water pumped into lakes and rivers also endangers the livelihood of marine organisms.

The prosecution was brought after Irish Water failed to carry out improvements at Castletownbere and Castletownshend in Co Cork and at Kilfenora in the Burren region of Co Clare.

The EPA has given a 20 month ultimatum to Irish Water to fix Kilfenora’s sewage discharge problem which has reportedly existed since 1974.

The EPA also accused Irish Water of misreporting Glin and Foynes in Co Limerick and Newport in Co Mayo as receiving “primary treatment” in 2016. Untreated sewage was later found to be discharged in streams at these locations.

“They are endangering the environment, the livelihoods of fishermen, the health of the local population and the area’s marketability as a tourist destination by dumping raw sewage directly in the harbour,” Ms Ní Riada said.

Rock a Nore sewage outfall pipe, UK Photo: Julian P Guffogg

National Problem

Waste-water finds its way back into the environment every day in 44 locations around Ireland, according to the EPA’s latest waste water treatment report.

The EPA has warned that plans to build treatment facilities in those areas are delayed by up to three years, and most won’t be completed until 2021.

The report also revealed that Irish waste-water treatment facilities in 50 of Ireland’s 185 large towns and cities fail to comply with EU standards.

The agency’s latest figures showed a significant worsening in Irish Water’s standards compared to 2015 when 29 plants out of 171 in large urban areas were found not to comply with EU standards.

According to the EPA, only “prompt investment in infrastructure could avoid large financial penalties [imposed by the EU] in the future”.

Ms Ní Riada said that she would raise the issue in the European Parliament hoping to garner EU funding for the improvement of Irish Water standards.

“I will be raising this issue in the European Parliament to see if there is funding available for upgrades or legislation that could finally compel our own Government to act,” Ms Ní Riada said.

About the Author

Shamim Malekmian

Shamim Malekmian is a Cork-based freelance journalist and contributor to the Irish Examiner, Cork’s Evening Echo and Green News. She is currently a second-year BA in Journalism student at Griffith College Cork.

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