Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) echoes criticism of Uisce Éireann for slow progress on halting sewage pollution.

The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) has echoed the criticism by the EPA on Uisce Éireann’s slow pace on stopping sewage pollution, and the call on Uisce Éireann to “use its new investment plan to end pollution of our rivers and coastal waters from waste water” [1]. This follows the recent publication of a report from the EPA on Urban Waste Water Treatment [2]. The network of 25 environmental organisations, have been calling on government to ensure the next Uisce Éireann Investment Plan has clear actions to halt sewage discharges in the more than 200 water bodies degraded by wastewater pollution.

Over half of Ireland’s waste water discharges are not meeting EU standards which were set to protect the environment. Five years ago the European Court of Justice found that Ireland was failing to meet obligations for treating urban wastewater, and the state is now at risk of incurring significant fines if the situation isn’t remedied swiftly[3]. For over 200 waterbodies, inadequately treated sewage is a major pollution pressure and reason they are unhealthy and failing mandatory standards. EU law requires that these polluted waterbodies be restored by 2027. The next Irish Water Investment Plan runs from 2025-2029 and is a chance to put in the much needed investment and resources to restore these waters. 

Sinéad O’Brien, SWAN Coordinator said: “Sewage discharges are a significant issue for over 200 of our rivers, lakes and bays which have been assessed as unhealthy by the EPA. Yet we have no commitment from government to ensure that the next Irish Water Investment Plan has clear actions to halt this pollution. They must remedy this unacceptable state of affairs by including these measures in their plan for managing Ireland’s inland and coastal waters, the River Basin Management Plan, which is to be published this year.”

“While there has been some progress on raw sewage release, the fact that raw and poorly treated sewage is still being discharged into our rivers, lakes and sea is unacceptable. It’s polluting our water environment and posing a serious risk to sensitive habitats and to public health.”

“Our precious water wildlife and the health of the public should not have to suffer from the dire consequences of an under-resourced, ineffective waste water infrastructure any longer. Government must step-up and meet its responsibilities to the environment and public health. The imminent River Basin Management Plan will be a test of whether they are willing to do that.”

Notes

  1. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), News Release October 25, 2023
  2. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2022
  3. European Commission, Commission takes Ireland to Court for failure to upgrade waste water treatment infrastructure, 2017