Towns’ waste water is ‘putting rivers at risk’

Waste water from towns and villages in counties Cork, Donegal, Wicklow, Galway, Clare, Mayo, Waterford, Wexford and Dublin is putting Irish bathing waters and rivers at risk as raw sewage isn’t being removed.

Water coming from 42 towns or villages in these counties isn’t being treated, or else is only being given minimal treatment before being pumped into seas and rivers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

And, under EU laws, waste water from larger urban areas should be subject to even more attention with primary and secondary (biological) treatment compulsory.

However, waste water from Ringaskiddy, Crosshaven, Carrigaline, Passage West, Monkstown, Youghal and Cobh in Cork as well as Arklow in Wicklow, Clifden in Galway and Killybegs in Donegal is only receiving the most basic form of treatment.

Primary wastewater treatment is little more than storing waste water in a basin so that heavy solids settle and are then removed.

Latest figures from the EPA Urban Waste Water Report shows that 94% of Irish waste water was treated in some form in 2012, a three-fold increase in the past 10 years.

It also says 69% of secondary treatment plants met main effluent standards, a 5% improvement on the previous year.

But it also found that Ringsend in Greater Dublin, Cork City, Dundalk, Killybegs, Navan in Co Meath, Cavan, Roscrea in Co Tipperary and Carrigtwohill in Co Cork failed in wastewater nutrient quality and sampling standards and also in their obligations to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen emissions into water.

It also found that one out of every three sewage plant incidents reported to the EPA are because of inadequate management by operators.

Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, Gerard O’Leary said Ireland has made progress in the last decade.

“Despite this investment, sewage from 42 towns and villages discharges untreated into our rivers and coastal waters, putting the environment and people’s health under threat. This practice needs to be eliminated.”

And programme manager for the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, Gerard Flynn welcomed the advent of Irish Water saying “solving management issues at water treatment plant is not just about investment and building new plants”.

“It requires better management of the technology in place,” he said.

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