38 of Ireland’s Largest Sewage Discharges Fail to Meet Treatment Standard

Date released: Dec 12 2014

Discharge of raw and inadequately treated sewage impacts on the environment, including popular bathing waters.

  • The 38 sites that fail to meet treatment standards include our two largest cities Dublin and Cork, where the treatment process is not achieving the required standard.
  • The list of quality failures includes large towns such as at Killybegs, Youghal, and Lower Cork Harbour where sewage is receiving no effective treatment.
  • The challenge for Irish Water is to eliminate these raw sewage discharges, prevent pollution of waters from inadequately treated sewage and to improve the management and performance of our water treatment plants.

The EPA Urban Waste Water Report 2013, released today, shows that significant improvement is needed in the infrastructure and management of waste water from Ireland’s towns and villages.  Commenting on the report Mr. Gerard O’Leary, Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“Ireland adopted the European Directive on urban waste-water treatment 20 years ago. The roadmap laid out in this was intended to protect the environment from the adverse effects of sewage.  The 38 urban centres that fail to meet the required standard place the health of people and the environment at risk.  The reasons for the failures range from, in some instances a complete absence of infrastructure to treat sewage, in others, inadequate infrastructure, and in further instances, poor management and operation of infrastructure.”

Some key findings of the report on infrastructure:

  • Nine large urban areas did not meet the Directive requirement to provide secondary treatment.
  • Eight large urban areas did not meet the Directive requirement to provide infrastructure to reduce nutrients and did not meet nutrient quality standards.
  • 44 areas had no waste water treatment and are discharging raw sewage.
  • 50% of 350 infrastructural improvements required in EPA licences before the end of 2013 were not completed.

Some key findings on the management and operation of plants:

  • 71% of the 441 plants with secondary treatment achieved the minimum standard, up 17% since 2009.
  • 37% of incidents were attributed to issues surrounding operation and maintenance.
  • 45 audits found that a maintenance programme for plants and equipment was not in place.

And some key findings in relation to the receiving environment:

  • Waste water discharges contributed to poor bathing water quality status at 4 designated bathing waters in 2013 including Clifden and Galway City. Four additional designated bathing waters are at risk from waste water discharges including Youghal and Ardmore.
  • Six seriously polluted river sites where pollution is caused by urban waste water discharges, down from 9 in 2009.
  • 49 waste water works were linked with river pollution, down from 56 in 2009.
  • 11 river sites previously linked to pollution from waste water are now unpolluted.

Mr. David Flynn, Programme Manager, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement added that Irish Water inherited a system suffering from a legacy of under-investment.

“The priorities for Irish Water are to eliminate raw sewage discharges, reduce the pollution impact of sewage and improve the performance of existing wastewater infrastructure.”

The report is now available on the EPA Website.


List of 38 waste water treatment plants that failed to meet the Directive standards in 2013
1 Cavan  Baileborough
2 Cavan  Cavan
3 Cork City  Shannon
4 Cork  Carrigrennan
5 Cork  Carrigtwohill
6 Cork  Charleville
7 Cork  Clonakilty
8 Cork  Cobh
9 Cork  Millstreet
10 Cork  Passage/Monkstown
11 Cork  Rathcormack
12 Cork  Ringaskiddy/Crosshaven/Carrigaline
13 Cork  Youghal
14 Donegal  Bundoran
15 Donegal  Convoy
16 Donegal  Killybegs
17 Dublin City  Ringsend
18 Galway  Clifden
19 Galway  Loughrea
20 Kilkenny  Callan
21 Kilkenny  Kilkenny City
22 Laois  Abbeyleix
23 Laois  Mountrath
24 Laois  Portlaoise
25 Laois  Rathdowney
26 Leitrim  Manorhamilton
27 Limerick  Castleroy
28 Limerick  Kilmallock
29 Louth  Dundalk
30 Meath  Enfield/Johnstown Bridge
31 Meath  Navan
32 Meath  Stamullen
33 Monaghan  Clones
34 Roscommon  Boyle
35 Roscommon  Monksland
36 Sligo  Tubbercurry
37 North Tipperary  Roscrea
38 Wicklow  Arklow