Fine Gael under renewed pressure for water charges in the wake of damning EPA waste-water report
25 November, 2016
According to the report on ‘Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2015’ recently published on the EPA Ireland website, significant funding will be required to prevent waste water from having a negative impact on pollution and public health in a large number of sites scattered across the country.
The report identified 124 urban areas where improvements are required to bring the management of waste-water in line with the agency’s waste-water priorities. These areas span the country and can be seen dotted on the map below.
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The problems identified in these sites fall under the following categories: unsatisfactory standard of water treatment, untreated water draining into rivers, estuaries, and coastal waters, pollution of rivers and bathing waters, inadequate protection of freshwater pearl mussels and shellfish among others.
- 142 large towns and cities complied with the mandatory EU waste water treatment standards during 2015, while 29 failed.
- Raw sewage is still discharging from 43 areas. Treatment plants planned for half of these areas have been delayed by two years on average.
- 3 New treatments plants were built at Ardmore, Dunmore East and Ballylongford
- Annual investment on infrastructure since 2014 has dropped by 40% from the average levels during the previous decade
The report recommends that a substantial and sustained increase in investment in public waste-water treatment be adopted by government in order to eliminate discharges of raw sewage and to comply with EU treatment standards. If capital investment is not ramped up, the numerous problem areas could suffer environmental damage and cause public health concerns.
The delays in the planned construction of treatment plants are of particular concern to the EPA. Mr. Gerard O’Leary Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said:
The pace of resolving waste water treatment needs to improve. It is not acceptable that the timeframe to eliminate the discharge of raw sewage from over 20 areas has slipped by almost 2 years. We need to see increased capital investment and improved efficiencies in the delivery of the outstanding infrastructure necessary to protect our rivers, lakes and coastal waters and for a more sustainable quality of life.
The slowdown in investment is heavily criticised in the report and has garnered significant attention in the media. The political hot potato of Irish water charges may well need to be handled by the government, once again, over the coming months. A motion regarding the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Charges was voted on in the Dáil yesterday. The committee which is negative of any political persuasion will report back with recommendations in approximately three months.
Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty stated : “The aim of the composition and Chair of the Committee is to facilitate consensus and move towards compromise on a difficult issue”. Let’s hope that this compromise will negotiate a path between environmental concerns in dire need of capital investment and – what has been one of the biggest PR disasters for Fine Gael in recent memory – water charges.
No easy task there, fingers crossed, watch this space…
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