‘Significant funding required for waste water treatment if pollution and health risks to be avoided’ says EPA

Date released: Nov 23 2016

‘Significant funding required for waste water treatment if pollution and health risks to be avoided’ says EPA

  • 142 large towns and cities complied with the mandatory EU waste water treatment standards during 2015, while 29 failed.
  • Raw sewage is still discharging from 43 areas. The planned delivery of treatment plants at half of these areas has now been delayed, by an average of almost two years.
  • New treatment plants have been built at Ardmore, Dunmore East and Ballylongford to eliminate raw sewage discharges. 
  • Reported annual investment in infrastructure since 2014 has dropped by 40% from the average levels during the previous decade.



The EPA report on Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2015, released today, shows that a substantial and sustained increase in investment in public waste water treatment infrastructure is needed to eliminate discharges of raw sewage, comply with European Union treatment standards and protect our environment and public health from the adverse effects of waste water discharges.

The report demonstrates that Ireland is not spending enough, and not spending quickly enough to deal with the problem. Commenting on the report Mr Gerard O’Leary, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“The pace of resolving waste water treatment needs to improve.  It is not acceptable that the timeframe to eliminate the discharge of raw sewage from over 20 areas has slipped by almost 2 years.  We need to see increased capital investment and improved efficiencies in the delivery of the outstanding infrastructure necessary to protect our rivers, lakes and coastal waters and for a more sustainable quality of life.”

The EPA identifies the following priorities and calls for resources to be targeted at resolving these issues.

  • 29 large towns and cities fail to meet mandatory EU waste water treatment standards.  The final EU deadline for the provision of such treatment was 2005.
  • 43 areas are still discharging raw sewage.
  • 13 collection networks require significant upgrades to meet EU standards and prevent the loss of waste water into the environment.
  • Waste water discharges contributed to poor quality water at 6 popular beaches including Merrion Strand, Youghal Front Strand and Duncannon. 
  • Waste water from 45 areas was linked with river pollution, down from 49 in 2013.
  • 16 waste water schemes require improvements to protect the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel.

Other key findings:

  • Just 25% of waste water discharged into nutrient sensitive areas from our large towns and cities complied with nutrient quality standards, compared to the EU average of 88%.
  • 1 in 5 long term incidents were attributed to operation and maintenance issues.
  • EPA audits identified 29 sites with no operation and maintenance programme.  This is a key tool to ensure the correct operation of treatment infrastructure.

The discharge of raw sewage from Ardmore, Dunmore East and Ballylongford ceased in 2015 and these areas are now served by modern treatment plants.
Mr David Flynn, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement commented that;

“EPA analysis has found that better operational practices should resolve issues at one fifth of poorly-performing plants. Irish Water needs to improve the performance of these plants to get the most from the existing infrastructure.”


The report is now available on the EPA Website.

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie