Discharge of surface water into River Nore has ceased after investigation, says Kilkenny Council

Published by Niall Sargent on

August 18th, 2017

Kilkenny County Council has confirmed that the discharge of surface water from street sweepers directly into the River Nore has stopped following an internal investigation.

Earlier this month, the Environmental protection Agency (EPA) ordered the Council to investigate the potential contamination of the River Nore by discharge from a Council street sweeping truck following an anonymous complaint in July 2017.

The complaint was received after video footage emerged on social media of a street sweeping truck emptying a liquid substance into the river along the Canal Walk close to Kilkenny Castle in April 2016.

In a statement, the Council confirmed that it sent a reply to the EPA on 4 August 2017 indicating that the matter had been investigated.

“On occasion, a sweeper used to discharge surface water collected while sweeping up leaves on the Canal Walk by the side of the river in the belief that the water collected was ‘clean’ surface water,” the Council’s reply to the EPA reads.

“This practice has stopped, and the sweeper now returns to the council yard when necessary to discharge any water collected to the foul sewer system.”

Although the EPA requested a full report from the Council’s Environment Section, the environmental watchdog told The Green News that it has now “closed the complaint” after reviewing the response provided by the Council.

A spokesperson for Save Kilkenny said that the local campaign group was glad to learn that the Council will “no longer indulge this careless practice”.

“We’re hopeful that the Council and other agencies will take a more proactive approach to environmental protection going forward,” the statement added.

The group, however, did express concern that it required the sharing of a video on social media to “bring this unacceptable practice to light and to initiate its demise”.

The River Nore 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.

Save Kilkenny is currently awaiting a response to an additional complaint made to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the authority responsible for sites protected under the Habitats Directive. The group is hopeful that the NPWS will “conduct a robust investigation and publish their findings”.

The NPWS told The Green News that it has yet to receive a full written report from the Council’s Sanitary Services regarding the “volumes and further details/constituents of the discharge”. It did, however, receive an “undertaking that this practice will never happen again”.

An extensive street sweeping program occurs throughout Kilkenny 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 on the Environment Request 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.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London