Urban Waste Water Discharges in Ireland

Serious deficiencies exist with urban waste water treatment plants and there are widespread and negative impacts on the environment flowing from these deficiencies.

The EPA report “Focus on Urban Waste Water Discharges in Ireland” (February 2012) has identified that almost 50% of urban waste water treatment facilities in Ireland do not meet EU waste water quality standards or Irish EPA guidelines.

In 2007 EPA took responsibility for oversight and enforcement for waste water works owned by, invested in, controlled or used by a water services authority regime.

  • The oversight imposes on local authorities a series of sampling, reporting, monitoring, and corrective actions.
  • EPA uses a “risk-based” enforcement that relies on an assessment of various factors, including the level of waste water treatment provided, effluent quality, impact of discharges on receiving steams, and proximity to sensitive environments.
  • There is a reliance on self-reporting by the operator, with periodic independent monitoring by EPA.

EPA reports that it received 529 applications from urban waste water treatment plants for licenses, which are required for the larger sewage systems.

  • EPA had by February 2012 issued licenses for 190 of the larger plants, leaving in excess of 60% of applications pending
  • (Smaller systems require only a certificate and EPA has issued 512 certificates)