Irish Water: Over 95% of raw sewage discharges to be removed by the end of 2025

Irish Water: Over 95% of raw sewage discharges to be removed by the end of 2025

An EPA accused Irish water of having “no clear plan” to deal with specific concerns around 34 towns and villages that are continuing to see raw sewage seeping into the environment on a daily basis.

Irish Water has responded to criticism levelled at it by a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report and said that over 95% of the raw sewage being discharged into Ireland’s rivers, lakes and coastal areas is on track to be removed by the end of 2025.

The EPA report, published Tuesday, highlighted the slow progress made by Irish Water in carrying out essential improvements to wastewater treatment facilities nationwide.

The EPA said delays in providing adequate wastewater treatment in many areas were of “significant concern” given such delays only prolong risks to both the environment and public health.

In response, Irish Water said it had made “consistent progress” in upgrading the country’s wastewater treatment system and that more than 60% of raw sewage discharges had now been "eliminated and replaced" with treatment capacity for the equivalent of 120,000 people. 

The EPA report also accused Irish Water of having “no clear plan” to deal with specific concerns around 34 towns and villages that are continuing to see raw sewage seeping into the environment on a daily basis.

"Even when funding is available, for example, to stop discharges of raw sewage, Irish Water has repeatedly revised and extended the timeframes to provide treatment,” the EPA said.

The agency said it required Irish Water to improve treatment at 97 “priority areas” including 10 which are not scheduled to receive treatment until 2025, and two which are likely to continue discharging untreated sewage until the year 2027.

However, Irish Water said wastewater treatment plants had already been built in 17 locations where raw sewage had been discharged into the sea, with the construction on a further 14 set to begin by the end of the year.

The utility said eight more projects would commence next year with nine more coming in 2023. Irish Water said an additional 10 wastewater treatment plants were built or upgraded in 2020 alone, directly benefiting about 20,000 people.

As for the 97 areas on its “Priority Action List”, Irish Water said this figure had fallen to 97 from a total of 148 in 2017, and that detailed plans were already in place to directly address issues at 75 of the locations. “There is no doubt that challenges remain," said Irish Water Managing director, Niall Gleeson.

"Much of the infrastructure for safely collecting and treating wastewater around the country has suffered from decades of under-investment. And in some instances, planning and other statutory processes, which are outside Irish Water’s control, have impacted on delivery timelines.

"Continued investment will be required in the coming years to build a modern, fit-for-purpose wastewater network but we are confident that we are on track to achieving that aim,” he said.

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