Urban Waste Water Discharges in Ireland

Date released: Jul 02 2009

The EPA today released the report on Urban Waste Water Discharges in Ireland for Population Equivalents Greater that 500 persons -A Report for the Years 2006 and 2007. The report provides a summary of the waste water treatment in 482 villages, towns and cities in Ireland.

Commenting on the report Mr. Gerard O’Leary, Programme Manager, EPA said,

“Continued investment in waste water treatment is required as well as a dramatic improvement by local authorities in the operation and monitoring of existing waste water treatment infrastructure.”

The report includes a review of the quality of discharges from 370 secondary waste water treatment plants and provides a baseline prior to the implementation of the new EPA licensing system for local authority waste water treatment plants.   More than 40,000 waste water effluent results from 2006 and 2007 were assessed in compiling the report. 

The report found that:

  • 90% of waste water in the country received secondary treatment or better. There has been a noticeable trend of increasing provision of secondary treatment of waste water over the past 10 years.
  • Waste water from 192 treatment plants (51%) did not meet the EU quality standards due to plants either not operating properly or being overloaded.
  • Waste water was being discharged with either no treatment or basic treatment at 112 locations at the end of the 2007 reporting period. As of June 2009, 93 of these locations remain without treatment or with just basic treatment. In the majority of cases these  discharges are to estuarine or coastal waters.
  • 158 locations were required to have secondary treatment or higher by 31st December 2005 in accordance with the urban waste water treatment Directive.  As of June 2009, 20 of these agglomerations remain without secondary treatment, although plans are in place for the provision of secondary treatment at all locations. The 20 agglomerations include significant towns such as Bray, (Co. Wicklow), Killybegs, (Co. Donegal), Shanganagh, (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown), Clifden (Co. Galway) and Kinsale (Co. Cork).
  • The overall compliance rate for large secondary treatment plants is 41% and for small plants it is just 24%.  Insufficient or incorrect sampling accounts for a quarter of non-compliances for all plant sizes and categories (i.e. if a sample is taken incorrectly or the required number of samples are not taken, the plant is considered to be out of compliance with National  Regulations and Directive).

Mr. Dara Lynott, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“The new EPA licensing system is setting strict conditions to reduce the impact of waste water from urban centres on water quality.  Failure to comply with licence conditions set by the EPA will result in enforcement action up to and including prosecution.  The EPA will focus on waste water treatment plants that are polluting rivers, lakes and sensitive receptors such as bathing waters.”

The report, entitled Urban Waste Water Discharges in Ireland for Population Equivalents Greater that 500 persons- Report for the Years  2006 and 2007 contains summary reports for all local authorities.  Download the report.


Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)

Notes to Editor

Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations, 2007:  This is the first report on urban waste water (sewage) since Regulations were introduced to tighten controls over local authority operated waste water treatment plants.  Local authorities had until June 2009 to submit applications to the EPA for Waste Water Discharge Authorisations. The next stage in the process involves the EPA assessing these applications and imposing conditions on local authorities to prevent and control pollution.  The first licences were issued in 2008.

Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive: The EU urban waste water treatment Directive requires compliance with waste water quality standards and specifies frequency of monitoring.  Typically, twelve samples per year are required from each plant.  Each sample must comply with individual quality standards set for three parameters.