'Third-world' water treatment plant dumped five swimming pools of raw sewage into river

Irish Water was fined €7,000 and agreed to pay costs
'Third-world' water treatment plant dumped five swimming pools of raw sewage into river

Brian Coffey, an inspector with the Environmental Protection Agency, said another plant downstream in Leixlip, which uses the River Liffey to supply drinking water, was not notified when the untreated wastewater spewed out from the Newhall Pumping Station. Photo: Collins Courts

A “Third-World” Irish Water treatment plant dumped raw sewage – enough to fill five Olympic swimming pools – into the River Liffey, a court has heard.

The untreated wastewater spewed out from the Newhall Pumping Station in Co. Kildare, when it repeatedly broke down in March 2019, Dublin District Court heard.

Another plant downstream in Leixlip, which uses the Liffey to supply drinking water, was not notified, Judge Anthony Halpin was told.

He fined Irish Water €7,000 after it pleaded guilty to six charges of breaching its operation licence. The prosecution was brought by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Brian Coffey, an EPA inspector, told Judge Halpin the plant pumps sewage from Naas to a treatment plant in Osbertown, Co. Kildare. It was an ageing infrastructure, the court heard.

On the evening of March 13, the pumps “tripped” and stopped working. Sewage was discharged into the Liffey as a result of an emergency overflow.

Mr Coffey said this usually set off an alarm alerting the large-scale plant downstream. However, the Leixlip abstraction point, which supplies drinking water to 600,000 people, was not warned on time about three of the four incidents.

It could have shut down its intake until the pollution had flowed past. The alarm was not raised until a caretaker came into the Newhall plant, hours after the discharges began.

Some 13,800 cubic metres of raw sewage was discharged into the Liffey from March 13 until March 22. The EPA inspector said that was enough to fill five-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), the State agency responsible for Ireland's inland fisheries and sea angling resources, was not notified.

Judge Halpin said: "It sounds like a Third-World operation system", and he noted that Irish Water had convictions from previous EPA prosecutions.

Defence counsel Eoghan Cole said human error resulted in the failure to warn the drinking water treatment plant downstream. Irish Water put a new training regime in place afterwards, the judge noted.

Judge Halpin recorded convictions and imposed fines totalling €7,000 and noted that Irish Water has agreed to pay costs.

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