The Womanagh Angling and Development Association in East Cork have pointed the blame at Cork County Council and, to an extent, Dairygold.
Locals claim the River Kiltha is being seriously harmed by emissions flowing from the agri co-op’s plant in Mogeely and the council’s waste water treatment plant at Castlemartyr.
Cork County Council confirmed there had been “periodic operational issues with the treatment plant” but said they had been remedied.
A council spokesman said yesterday that the current quality of final effluent was not at an acceptable standard — although all its weekly and monthly sampling had been in compliance with the requirements of the Urban Wastewater Directive.
The Environmental Protection Agency was informed of the condition of the river — which flows from Mogeely to Castlemartyr — and opened a complaint file.
Dairygold has denied its plant is a source of pollution into the Kiltha River.
According to David Burke of the local angling and development association, the problem “goes back to the overdevelopment of Castlemartyr village during the building boom without subsequent upgrading of services”.
“The council’s wastewater treatment plant is operating above capacity with the result there is a regular malfunction of the wastewater treatment process leading to the discharge of suspended waste solids into the river,” he said.
“We have complained to the EPA for several years now but they then refer us to Cork County Council’s environment department to investigate it. We believe that we have repeatedly been stonewalled by the council.
“Inland Fisheries Ireland have also taken notice of our problem and, like the EPA, have offered support, but there is no discernible practical solution on the horizon.”
A spokesman for Cork County Council said a meeting was held to discuss the matter and was attended by representatives from the local authority, Woomanagh Angling Association, Inland Fisheries, and EPS, which runs the treatment plant for the council.
“Cork County Council proposed that a detailed examination of the plant would be carried out with a view to optimising operational parameters and improving the reliability of the treatment process and the quality of the final effluent.
“Cork County Council are continuing with their monitoring of the plant and implementing incremental changes to optimise the operation of the plant.
“It was agreed by all parties that there was no overnight solution to this issue and that the implementation of the necessary changes would take time.”
Last night, the EPA said it was assessing an application from Cork County Council for a waste water discharge licence for the plant.
The application was submitted in 2008. Prior to that, waste water treatment plants did not have to be licenced.
The EPA said Dairygold’s plant at Mogeely was subjected to regular EPA inspections and monitoring and that its Office of Environmental Enforcement had been made aware “of incidents that have occurred with regard to exceedances in permitted discharges to water”.
“The most recent of these events was detected on Feb 7 when the EPA conducted sampling of the discharge to water from the facility.
“The EPA has notified the licensee of this non-compliance and is pursuing compliance with the requirements of the licence. In response to the incidents regarding the discharges to water, the on-site waste water treatment at Dairygold is presently undergoing major upgrade works to improve its performance,” said an EPA spokesman.
A Dairygold spokesman denied the plant was a source of pollution. “Whatever gave rise to the cloudy appearance of the river in February, it did not originate from the Mogeely cheese plant or upstream of it,” he said.