It has been revealed that Cobh is one of two of the largest towns in the country releasing raw sewage into the environment every day.
There are a total of 35 towns and villages in Ireland where raw sewage is released each day, the largest of these being Cobh and Arklow with a combined population equivalent to 32,000.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is critical of Irish Water in its analysis of urban waste water treatment last year, and said that treatment at 19 of Ireland’s 172 large towns and cities, including Cork and Dublin, failed to meet standards set to prevent pollution.
The EPA report released this morning identified 13 areas in Cork, Kerry and Laois where improvements are needed to protect globally endangered freshwater pearl mussels.
There are a total of 48 areas where wastewater is the main significant threat to inland and coastal waters at risk of pollution, down from 57 areas the previous year.
The report also highlights that delays in upgrading treatment systems around the country are prolonging risks to the environment and public health.
Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, Dr Tom Ryan, said that raw sewage discharges “pose an unacceptable risk to the environment and public health”.
“Two years ago, Irish Water advised it would provide necessary treatment infrastructure by the end of 2021 for 30 of the 35 areas discharging raw sewage. It has now revised this down to just two areas, resulting in significant delays in bringing projects to completion.
“The growing uncertainty in Irish Water’s planning and delivery of these critical projects is undermining confidence in its capacity to reduce the risks to public health and the environment in a timely manner.
“Plans are only effective if implemented, and the inherent uncertainty of these plans is a serious cause of concern for the EPA. Irish Water must remedy the underlying causes for the delays in delivering this critical infrastructure to ensure that raw sewage discharges are eliminated,” he said.
The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) has called for immediate action from the government to improve Ireland’s waste water infrastructure with coordinator, Sinéad O’Brien, saying that the fact that raw sewage is still being discharged into rivers, lakes and the sea “is completely unacceptable”.
“Lack of effective wastewater treatment is damaging our water environment and posing a significant public health risk. Treating human waste adequately so that it can be safely released to the environment is one of the most fundamental requirements of a modern state; yet more than 25 years after this most basic obligation was enshrined in EU and Irish law, we are still failing to deliver it.
“During pandemic restrictions, people across the country rediscovered our beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers – but many quickly experienced the reality of under-resourced, ineffective waste water infrastructure, as sewage overflows caused by heavy rain resulted in unpleasant encounters with sanitary waste and frequent bathing restrictions. Wastewater discharges are a key factor in our continually declining water quality and pose a serious threat to sensitive habitats and species,” she said.