Emissions from the Purcellsinch plant on the edge of Kilkenny City have become such a problem that the Southern Regional Fisheries Board has threatened the council with legal proceedings.
The majority of the blame for the problems at the Purcellsinch facility is not the local authority but Smithwick’s Brewery owned by international drinks giant Diageo plc, the fisheries board claims.
The fisheries board also criticises the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the way it polices the Smithwick’s plant in Kilkenny. It also highlights the EPA’s failure to introduce a random sampling programme in the area.
“Quite frankly, in view of the scale of the discharges involved, the board is extremely surprised and concerned that such a sampling programme is not in place,” said Patrick Kilfeather, senior fisheries environmental officer with the board.
This is denied by the brewery and the EPA. However, Diageo has admitted that waste water with fluctuating pH levels was recently sent from the brewery to Purcellsinch.
“Brewery systems detected the variance and it was quickly rectified and communicated with the relevant authorities,” a statement from Diageo said.
A spokesperson said that, while they were the main industrial user of the Purcellsinch facility, it was managed by the county council and the brewery had to abide by its licence, granted by the EPA and monitored by same.
And while there have been a number of incidents, they have been managed quickly. “Since the beginning of the year, we have also undertaken a major upgrade of our systems, to include more controls and greater capacity. These will make absolutely sure that we will continue to be compliant with our licence terms.”
There are efforts to remedy the situation, the fisheries board acknowledges.
It has found that the people running the Purcellsinch treatment plant have been doing their utmost to run the treatment plant to the best of their ability.
“We have found various instances of staff working additional shifts, overtime and throughout weekends to deal with issues such as wastage and treatment of excess sludge,” said Mr Kilfeather.
He said Kilkenny County Council had informed the fisheries board that it was the council’s view that the majority of recent operating difficulties, which led to sludge carry-over at the plant, had been associated with discharges of industrial effluent from the brewery.
It’s not the first time the brewery has been in trouble. In August, it polluted the river in the centre of the city with discharges coming straight from its premises.
The pollution was only uncovered because of the Flood Relief Scheme. As part of the work, the river channel was narrowed and the area around the brewery was dried out.