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  1. 46%  of Ireland’s urban wastewater treatment plants are failing to achieve the standards required by the EU and Ireland itself, according to a new report released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Commenting on the report Mr. Gerard O’Leary, Programme Manager, in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said:

    “This level of performance is poor and needs to improve. In order to meet EU targets further investment in infrastructure is required and we need a step change in the operation and maintenance of these valuable assets.”

    This report, the eighth in the series, is the first review of the operation of waste water treatment plants at 529 urban areas since they became subject to a new licensing regime being rolled out by the EPA. The main findings are as follows:

    1. 46% of waste water treatment plants did not meet all waste water quality standards or EPA guidelines.
    2. Eleven large urban areas do not meet the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) requirement to have secondary treatment in place (Table 1). These include, for example, Bray and Ringaskiddy where the provision of treatment is now ten years overdue; Clifden, where the old plant is impacting on bathing water; and Moville where discharges are causing serious pollution to the River Bredagh.
    3. Eight urban areas do not meet the UWWTD requirement to provide nutrient reduction in addition to secondary treatment for discharges to sensitive water areas by specified dates (Table 2). Because these relate to more sensitive environments a higher level of treatment is required – in these cases, nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen have to be removed. Areas affected include the cities of Cork, Dublin and Kilkenny.
    4. The EPA expects that by 2015 the necessary treatment will be in place for the large urban centres – work to be completed by the relevant local authorities.

      Commenting on the Report, Dara Lynott, Director, Office of Environmental Enforcement said:
    “Meeting our EU targets will require substantial and sustained investment. However, the benefits of such investment extend beyond water quality, as clean water is a pre-requisite for our tourism, food, agriculture and manufacturing industries.”

    Since the last report, there has been significant improvement in the monitoring of waste water treatment plants. In 2007, 112 plants did not take sufficient samples; this figure has reduced to 38 in the current report.

    “We are pleased to see this increase in monitoring – that was an area we highlighted in the last report. The issues we are highlighting today, in particular, operation and maintenance, now need to be prioritised in the coming years,” Dara Lynott concluded.

    Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive: The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC) has requirements for sewerage systems (or waste water collection systems) to be provided and sets deadlines for the provision of sewage treatment. The main requirements of the UWWTD are as follows:

    • Scheduled provision of waste water collecting systems and treatment plants based on the size of the agglomeration and the type of water body to which the waste water is discharged (freshwater, estuarine or coastal, sensitive or non-sensitive).
    • Monitoring by water services authorities (including frequency of monitoring) of discharges from waste water treatment plants.

    In Ireland the Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations, 2001 (S.I. No. 254 of 2001), as amended, give effect to the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC).

    The EU urban waste water treatment Directive requires compliance with waste water quality standards and typically, twelve samples per year are required from each plant. Each sample must comply with individual quality standards set for three parameters BOD, COD and SS. There are additional requirements for discharges to nutrient sensitive waters.

    EU Water Framework Directive: the WFD requires member states to take a holistic approach to managing their water resources. It applies to rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuaries and coastal waters. Member States must aim to achieve good status in all waters by 2015 and must ensure that status does not deteriorate in any waters.

    The Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations 2007 introduced a licensing system for urban waste water discharges to drive improvements in water quality in Ireland. The EPA has received 529 licence applications and 515 applications for certificates of authorisation. To date it has granted 190 licences and 512 certificates.

    The Urban Waste Water Treatment report is available on the EPA website.

    Table 1: Urban areas with secondary treatment required by the UWWTD but not yet in operation

    Water Services Authority


    Date secondary treatment required

    Estimated completion date
    Fingal Lusk 2005 mid 2012 connection to Portrane
    Cork Skibbereen 2005 end 2012
    Wicklow Bray 2000 2012 pipeline to Shanganagh
    Galway Clifden 2005 2013
    Cork Cobh 2005 2014

    Passage West/


    2005 2014




    2000 2014
    Donegal Moville 2005 mid 2014
    Donegal Killybegs 2008 end 2014
    Cork Youghal 2005 end 2015
    Wicklow Arklow 2005 end 2015

    Table 2: Urban areas with secondary treatment with nutrient reduction required by UWWTD

    Water services authorityAgglomeration

    Date secondary treatment with

    nutrient reduction required

    Estimated completion date
    Donegal Killybegs 31 May 2008

    2012 new outfall to eliminate

    discharge to sensitive area

    Kerry Tralee 31 May 2008 end 2012
    Louth Dundalk 31 May 2008 end 2013
    Cork City Cork City 31 May 2008 end 2014
    Cork Carrigtohill 31 May 2008 end 2014
    Wexford Enniscorthy 31 May 2008 mid 2014

    Dublin City, Fingal, South

    Dublin, Dun Laoghaire-

    Rathdown & Meath

    Greater Dublin


    31 May 2008

    2015 proposed new outfall to

    eliminate discharge to

    sensitive area


    Kilkenny City &


    31 May 2008 mid 2015
  2. When will the Environment Agency train their staff properly???

    Another incident today when the E.A. gave out incorrect advice.

    A client, requiring a sewage treatment plant for a cafe was advised to fit a Conder ECO10 person plant by the E.A. The cafe owner rang to order one today, but, whilst trying to ascertain if it was the correct size, we dicovered that the cafe does 150 covers per day. This requires a sewage treatment plant with a minimum size of 75 persons! Imagine if the cafe owner had contacted a builder's Merchant to order one? They would have taken his order without question and he would have bought a plant 1/7th the size required - ON THE E.A.'s ADVICE!!!

    The Environment Agency should only give CORRECT information; the public relies on it.

  3. Today, once again, a telephone call from an architect wanting advice for his client on sewage treatment options for a building plot. There is no mains drainage nearby and - NO POSSIBILITY OF ANY SANITATION AT ALL.

     His client has bought the building plot, with full planning permission but with the foul water system as a reserved matter. The plot is in an Inner Groundwater Source Protection Zone, so no soakaways are allowed. This rules out septic tanks and sewage treatment plants discharging to ground. The plot is too small for a soakaway in any case.

    The plot has no watercourses or surface water drains nearby. This rules out sewage treatment plants discharging to watercourse.

    The only other option is a sealed cesspool that has no outlet. These cost the average family of 4 around £7000/year in emptying charges. The problem is that the cesspool would need to be a minimum 40,000L to conform with Building Regulations and has to be situated a minimum 7M from any building. The plot is too small to fit one in.

    In short, no sanitation is possible for this plot. What a nightmare for the poor owner and his family.

    In our opinion, the planning laws should be changed. Foul drainage should NEVER be a reserved matter as without sanitation a house is just a shed. Purchasers buy building plots with Full Planning thinking that all aspects of the build have been approved - and they should have been. This poor man now has a mortgage on a piece of land that is useless. Our hearts go out to him, his partner and their unborn baby.

    Never buy a Building Plot without full foul drainage system plans and approvals. Your new plot may well be WORTHLESS if you do.