Sewage flowing into Irish waterways could 'fill three Olympic swimming pools' every day

Sewage Flowing Into Irish Waterways Could 'Fill Three Olympic Swimming Pools' Every Day
Wastewater treatment at 15 large urban areas, including Dublin, did not meet EU environmental standards. Photo: PA
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Raw sewage from the equivalent of 54,000 people in 26 towns and villages is still discharged into the environment every day in Ireland.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Uisce Éireann, formerly Irish Water, has not managed to tackle pollution in some of the most significantly impacted rivers, estuaries, lakes, and coastal waters.


Wastewater treatment in 15 large urban areas, including Dublin, did not meet EU environmental standards, while 26 towns and villages discharge raw sewage every day as they are not connected to treatment plants.

It will take a multibillion-euro investment to bring all wastewater treatment systems up to standard and at least two decades to complete, the EPA warned.

Less than half of wastewater in Ireland is treated to European standards despite Brussels requiring Ireland to do so 30 years ago.

Uisce Éireann’s wastewater spokesman, Michael Tinsley, acknowledged that “the discharge of raw sewage is completely unacceptable”.


He told RTÉ radio that the report “highlights the significant progress” made to fix long-standing issues, and that €450 million spent on wastewater infrastructure last year represented the highest ever investment.

He said that since Uisce Éireann’s establishment in 2014, there were 50 areas where raw sewage was being discharged untreated.

He said that although the EPA report said this has reduced to 26, four further areas have been completed “in recent months” and work is ongoing in another 11 areas.



Although acknowledging progress that has been made by Uisce Éireann, the EPA expressed concerns that delays prolong the risk to the environment and public health.

The director of the EPA, Dr Tom Ryan, said: “While it is encouraging to see continued progress in stopping the unacceptable practice of discharging raw sewage into our environment, wastewater remains a significant pressure on Ireland’s waterways and is adversely impacting water quality.

“The pace at which Uisce Éireann is delivering improvements needs to accelerate to prevent pollution and protect water quality.”

EPA programme manager Noel Byrne said: “It is welcome that Uisce Éireann is currently building infrastructure at large urban areas, including Ringsend and Arklow, which are designed to treat wastewater to a high standard.

“However, poor management practices at upgraded plants, such as Skibbereen and Courtmacsherry, caused inadequately treated sewage to discharge into the environment.

“This is not acceptable as these plants have sufficient treatment capacity.

“Uisce Éireann must implement effective maintenance programmes for existing infrastructure and improve its operation and management of treatment plants to prevent such failures in future.”

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