The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that repeated delays in the elimination of raw sewage are unacceptable and that these delays pose a risk to the Irish environment and public health. The EPA report on Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2018 has shown that the waste water treatment in 21 of Ireland’s 169 large towns and cities – including Dublin and Cork – did not meet the national and European standards set to protect the environment.
However, this figure is down from 28 in the previous year. In March 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union declared that Ireland has failed to fulfil its obligations to collect and treat waste water properly. The report also showed that sewage from the equivalent of 77,000 people in 36 Irish towns and villages is released into the environment every day without treatment.
Commenting on the report, Dr. Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said: “Inadequately treated waste water can pollute our environment and is a risk to people’s health. We are seeing repeated delays in providing treatment for many areas and it is not acceptable that 13 towns and villages will still have no waste water treatment by the end of 2021. Irish Water must speed up its delivery of key infrastructure.”
“The pace at which Irish Water is fixing the legacy of deficiencies in Ireland’s waste water treatment infrastructure is too slow and many areas continue to release inadequately treated waste water into the environment. Raw sewage from 36 towns and villages is still released into our coastal waters and rivers today,” Ryan added.
The report stated that waste water is one of the main threats to water quality in Ireland. The EPA has also prioritised where it believes Irish Water should target its resources to improve water treatment. It has also identified the areas where improvements are needed the most:
- 57 areas where waste water is the sole environmental threat to rivers, lakes and coastal waters at risk of pollution. The EPA is monitoring 14 of these areas following recent improvements to determine if the risk of pollution is now resolved.
- 15 areas where improvements are needed to protect critically endangered freshwater pearl mussels or to safeguard shellfish habitats. This includes 10 towns and villages in Cork located near pearl mussel populations.
- 36 towns and villages releasing raw sewage into the environment. Half of the raw sewage comes from just three areas, Arklow, Cobh and Kilmore Quay.
- Three beaches where waste water contributed to poor quality bathing waters. The beaches are Merrion Strand and Sandymount Strand in Dublin and Clifden Beach in Galway.
- 8 large urban areas where waste water collection systems (sewers) were inadequate. When a collection system is inadequate it cannot retain all waste water and convey it for treatment.
Source – joe.ie