November 14th, 2019
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed that that untreated sewage of 77,000 people in 36 towns and villages is being discharged to the environment every day.
In its Urban Wastewater Treatment Report for 2018, the watchdog warns that untreated raw sewage will continue to be discharged into coastal and inland waters and contaminate the environment for the foreseeable future.
According to the findings, half of the wastewater is being discharged from Arklow, Co Wicklow, Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford and Cobh, Co Cork.
Criticising Irish Water’s backslide on promising to connect 31 polluted areas to treatment facilities and reducing the number to 23, the EPA warned that “extending the time to eliminate discharge” is significantly jeopardising public health and the environment.
“It is important to provide the outstanding infrastructure to end discharge of untreated wastewater without any further delays, “the report states.
Andy Fanning, the EPA’s head of Environmental Enforcement Programme said that Irish Water’s failure in providing “adequate treatment infrastructure” was unacceptable. “This is a legacy issue which must be solved by investment in new treatment systems,” he said.
Albeit acknowledging slow improvements, Mr Fanning said that he was dismayed that towns and villages that already have the necessary treatment in place “did not perform as well as they should.”
“We require Irish Water to continue to improve how it operates and maintains wastewater treatment systems to get the best performance from them,” he added.
The report has also highlighted the dangers of raw sewage contamination of Ireland’s bathing waters, with the potential to cause infectious skin, nose, ear, eye and throat ailments.
Earlier this year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that Ireland has failed to uphold EU law in relation to almost 30 wastewater treatment schemes across the country.
The court’s ruling opens the door for Ireland to be hit with heavy fines for breaching EU regulations on sewage treatment if it does not act to rectify the situation.
The EU Commission brought the case over Ireland’s failure to treat and collecting sewage without posing any risk to human health and the environment in over 52 Irish wastewater treatment schemes.
According to the judgment, incidences of sewage spill were counted 853 times in the Cork City scheme in 2015, leading to the leakage of around six million cubic metres of untreated sewage into the environment.