EPA wastewater report: A needless stain on our character

THE Environmental Protection Agency yesterday published a third damning report in a matter of weeks on abused water resources.

The publication focused on how, in 2017, wastewater treatment facilities in 50 of Ireland’s 185 — almost one in three — large towns or cities do not reach EU standards. Raw sewage is discharged at 44 urban locations. 

Cork and Donegal alone account for nearly half of those examples of medieval infrastructure. 

Earlier reports considered the impact agriculture, industry and transport on irreplaceable water so the impact of raw sewage cannot be viewed in isolation, it is just a strand in a continuum of neglect. 

The EPA highlighted an escalation in the wastewater treatment scandal since 2015, when 29 plants out of 171 in large urban areas failed to satisfy EU standards, and raw sewage was being discharged at 43 locations.

A growing population and a need to build thousands of houses each year for many years to come suggest treatment plants will struggle to keep up much less reach the basic EU standards. 

Resolving this defining failure will not be easy. Irish Water has estimated it would cost €13bn over many years to bring our systems up to an acceptable standard.

Water charges are the elephant in the room.

That question will have to be revisited sooner or later if not to save our water supplies but to avert looming EU fines for our institutionalised environmental destruction. 

Will we ever learn?


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