Athlone wastewater treatment not up to European standards

Waste water treatment in Athlone does not meet European standards, according to a report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ).

According to the report, 50 large urban areas in Ireland failed to meet the EU’s legally binding standards for the collection, treatment, and discharge of urban waste water. The deadline for compliance with these standards passed 12 years ago.

Athlone was found to be non-compliant with collection, secondary treatment, and more stringent treatment requirements. Monksland was also found to be non-compliant with secondary treatment requirements. As such, both have been labeled “priority areas” by the EPA report.

In response, Irish Water stated that a project is currently underway to upgrade the Athlone wastewater treatment plant, and a separate project is progressing to upgrade the Athlone wastewater network. The latter project involves constructing new sections of the sewer network under the river Shannon, decommission existing pumping stations that are not fit for purpose, constructing new pumping stations, and increasing storm water storage capacity.

The damning report made clear the challenge now facing Irish Water nationwide. Raw sewage is entering the water supply at 44 areas around the country, untreated waste water is causing environmental damage to water bodies in 59 areas, polluting several beaches, and threatening the habitat of freshwater pearl mussels and shellfish.

Speaking about the report, Irish Water’s head of asset management Seán Laffey said that “The EPA report correctly reflects the size and scale of the challenge facing Irish Water,” adding: “a substantial amount of this preparatory work is underway and people will see the outcome of this work over the coming years.”

The report was critical of the pace of upgrades to waste water treatment facilities in Ireland. Less than half (44 per cent ) of the improvement works due between 2009 and 2016 have been completed, and the EPA has prosecuted Irish Water for failure to complete certain infrastructural works.

The EPA called for an increase of capital investment into waste water treatment in Ireland, saying that such a spending increase would help avoid financial penalties from the Court of Justice of the European Union in the future.

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