EPA slams inadequate Irish urban waste water treatment

Waste water treatment in 50 of Ireland’s largest towns and cities fails to comply with EU standards set to prevent pollution and protect public health, the country’s green regulator has reported.

According to this latest assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), covering 2016, sewage across 44 areas is still entering the environment untreated each day. The EPA report noted that plans to install treatment at some of these areas is delayed by up to three years and most will not be completed until 2021. As well four bathing water areas were deemed unsafe for swimming due to health risks caused by sewage.

The agency complained that treatment of urban waste water was inadequate in too many areas, posing an “unacceptable risk to the environment and public health”.

EPA director, Gerard O’Leary, blamed historic under-investment. “Wastewater from over half our population failed to meet environmental standards. For many years Ireland failed to address the deficiencies in wastewater treatment. Substantial and sustained investment is now required to protect our valuable waterways and protect public health.”

The green regulator urged action in 50 towns and cities including the capital where a major upgrade of the Ringsend treatment plant is required.

The report also highlighted that Counties Cork and Donegal accounted for nearly half the 44 areas discharging untreated sewage. Of the 59 areas where waste water is the sole threat to rivers, lakes and coastal waters which are at risk of not achieving good status, nearly a quarter were in Counties Donegal and Galway.

State-owned Irish Water countered that it had delivered 66 new or upgraded plants in 2016. It warned that achieving the agency’s priorities would cost €13 billion and require large-scale investment over a sustained period.