Raw sewage is still being discharged from 43 locations around the country.
And the treatment plants planned for half of those locations have been delayed by up to two years.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2015 Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) report to be published today, Cork has the highest concentration of locations that failed to comply with the European Union’s effluent quality standards.
Carrigtwohill, Cobh, Youghal and Ringaskiddy-Crosshaven-Carrigaline are some of the urban areas that failed to reach the EU standards.
Areas in Cork that are actively discharging raw sewage include Ballycotton, Monkstown and Whitegate.
The EPA said Ireland is not spending enough and not spending quickly enough to deal with waste-water challenges.
Gerard O’Leary, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said the delay is unacceptable.
“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 two years,” he said.
“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,” Mr O’Leary added.
However, on a positive note, a total of 142 large towns and cities in Ireland had complied with the European waste water treatment standards last year.
The figure was in contrast to 29 towns and cities that failed to meet the EU standards.
Another positive was new treatment plants had been built in Co Waterford, at Ardmore and Dunmore East, and in Ballylongford, in Co Kerry.
However, 13 collection networks for waste now require “significant” upgrade works in order to meet the EU standards, says the EPA report.
And 16 waste water schemes need improvements in order to protect the “critically endangered” freshwater pearl mussel.
Other findings in the report showed the impact of poor waste-water treatment.
For example, poor water quality was recorded at six popular beaches as a result of waste-water discharges.
They included Merrion Strand (Dublin), Youghal Front Strand (Cork), and Duncannon (Wexford).
Furthermore, waste water from 45 locations was linked to river pollution in the report. This figure is down from 49 in the previous year’s report.
One other key finding in today’s report has identified 29 sites with no operation or maintenance programmes in place.
David Flynn, who is the programme manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said improved operational practices would help fix some of the challenges the country faces.
“EPA analysis has found that better operational practices should resolve issues at one-fifth of poorly performing plants,” he said.
“Irish Water needs to improve the performance of these plants to get the most from the existing infrastructure,” he said.
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