Waterford Estuary and SSE Generation Ireland Limited P0606-03

Waterford Estuary


Water quality of the Waterford Estuary


Date released: 22 May 2020


The EPA has received complaints regarding poor water quality and foaming in the Waterford Estuary which have been attributed to discharges from the SSE Generation Ireland Limited (Great Island) power station. The EPA has assessed SSE Generation Ireland Ltd (Great Island)’s compliance with their licence (P0606-03) and has found no evidence that SSE Generation Ireland are the cause of poor water quality (other than foaming). There are foaming issues at the power station and this situation is described below.


Industrial Emissions licence P0606-03


An EPA licence (P0606-01) was first granted to the ESB in January 2003 for the operation of an oil-fired combustion installation with a rated thermal input equal to or greater than 50MW. The licence was reviewed twice, in January 2005 (P0606-02) to provide for participation in the National Emission Reduction Plan (NERP) and in March 2011 (P0606-03) to provide for the replacement of the oil-fired plant with a new gas-fired combined cycle gas turbine power plant.  
The licence was transferred to SSE Generation Ireland Limited in October 2012. In December 2013, the licence became an Industrial Emissions licence.
A copy of licence register no. P0606-03 including the application is available on the EPA website. You can also review annual environmental reports and other enforcement documentation such as site visit reports at this location.
SSE made a technical amendment request to the EPA on 13/02/2020 seeking authorisation to maintain discharges at SW7 and SW8. SW7 is a storm water discharge which is required for the discharge of rain water and SW8 is screen wash water discharge. The request also identifies an error in the licence review application for P0606-03 in regard to the usage of sodium hypochlorite. In the licence application, it was submitted that 5 tonnes per year would be used. In actual fact, annual usage is up to 1,300 tonnes.  The EPA’s Environmental Licensing Programme is currently assessing this request. When a decision is made, an update will be provided here.


Foaming


In 2016 the EPA first received complaints of foaming in the Waterford Estuary attributed to the SSE discharge of cooling water. Investigations concluded that the foam was due to mechanical action on the discharged cooling water at the outfall.  Booms were installed in 2019 to contain any foam generated at the outfall. After that, there were no complaints of foaming until the weekend of 18-19 April 2020. The licensee (SSE Generation Ireland Limited) is currently investigating further measures to prevent the discharge of foam.
The EPA will maintain close surveillance of the licensee’s preventative actions to achieve an early conclusion of the foaming problem.


Shell fish mortality


In 2016, and again in 2019, the EPA received reports of shell fish dieback and other marine life health issues in the Waterford Estuary. These reports alleged that the discharge of chlorinated cooling water at the SSE power station was, at least in part, a contributing factor. the EPA has investigated this allegation and has found that SSE are compliant with the licence limits on the concentration of chlorine in the discharged water and found no evidence that SSE’s discharge is having such an effect on shell fish and fish mortality.  Chlorine (in the form of sodium hypochlorite, NaOCl) is added to cooling water at intake to prevent fouling of pipes within the power station. This anti-fouling agent is added to the intake cooling water when the water temperature exceeds 10°C.
SSE are currently completing an ecological survey in the estuary and a sampling and modelling exercise to examine the potential for negative effects of discharges from the power station.
Chlorine concentration limits, as set out in licence register number P0606-03, are 0.3 mg/l at SW2 (the main cooling water discharge) and 0.5mg/l at SW8 (screen wash water discharge).


Water quality in the Waterford Estuary


It is evident that the power station at Great Island is not the only potential pressure on water quality in the Waterford Estuary.  The EPA has consulted with other State bodies and we note shellfish dieback has been occurring over many years, not just in the Waterford Estuary but around the whole coast. Currently there is limited information on the nature and extent of shellfish dieback in Waterford Estuary or the reasons for such mortality. There is, consequently, insufficient evidence to conclude which individual pressures, if any, are contributing to the impacts on marine life in the estuary.
Data on water quality in the Waterford Estuary is available at https://www.catchments.ie 


Licence enforcement


The EPA is responsible for enforcing industrial and waste licensed activities.  Where the EPA forms the view that there are breaches of any licence that is not being addressed by the licensee, further enforcement action will be considered by the EPA in line with its enforcement policy.


Making Environmental Complaints


The Environmental Complaints section of the EPA website can be used to make complaints of an environmental nature using this form: Online Complaint Form


Further updates will be posted on this webpage.