Why are Milford, Kilmacrennan and Glen not on raw sewage list? – Councillor

A Donegal County Councillor has asked the EPA to explain why Kilmacrennan, Milford and Glen are not included on the list of locations discharging raw sewage into waterways and failing to meet mandatory EU standards.

The recent EPA list of wastewater polluters lists eleven Donegal areas of concern including Ramelton, Kerrykeel and Rathmullan. However, Cllr. Ian McGarvey disputes this figure saying it is much higher.

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He told the Tirconail Tribune that the Milford electoral area has a serious legacy of raw sewage going into waterways.

He told representatives of Irish Water at a briefing on Monday that the chronic history of underinvestment in Donegal means that there will never be enough funding to address the crisis of raw sewage.

He says the recent EPA report on untreated sewage was a scandal that all governments and all the political parties involved in Government in the last thirty years have very serious questions to answer.

He said the fact is that just a few hundred metres from the Council’s public Services Centre in Milford is one of the worst treatment plants in the entire system.

Cllr. McGarvey said: “ I’d go as far as to say that the so-called Milford Town waste water treatment plant is the worst in Ireland. There are family homes and sports facilities close by and it is a disgrace that this problem has become a chronic fact of life.

“We have to keep the windows and doors closed with the stench and I’d have to ask the question… is this a health hazard that nobody wants to hear about,” he commented last night.

And he added “In the summer time the odour is a very serious problem and nobody is prepared to do anything to resolve an issue that has been a problem for the past thirty years, at least,” said Cllr. McGarvey.

He said it did not come as any shock that 11 of the 43 national blackspots are in Donegal and he queries why Milford, Kilmacrennan and Glen have not been included on this list.

The EPA also reported spending on waste water treatment plants to have dropped by 40% since the creation of Irish Water and delivery of new plants has been delayed by an average of two years.

However Irish Water has disputed the EPA’s figures on under-spending, saying that between 2011 and 2013, there was a 50% drop in investment in waste water infrastructure to €136 million. When it took control of the network, spending increased to €166 million for 2014 and 2015 and it planned to further ramp-up investment to €326 million a year between 2016 and 2021
Figures from the EPA show between 2001 and 2011, there was an average spend of €270 million per year on waste water treatment. This has dropped to €166 million in the last two years, the agency claims

The report also finds that while new treatment plants have been built in a number of areas, progress is too slow. It also said timelines provided by Irish Water to improve and upgrade treatment plants were “slipping”.

“The pace of resolving waste water treatment needs to improve,” said director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, Gerard O’Leary.

“It is not acceptable that the timeframe to eliminate the discharge of raw sewage from over 20 areas has slipped by almost two 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 report says that 29 large towns and cities are failing to meet mandatory European Union standards, despite the EU’s final deadline to improve quality passing in 2005.

The Environmental Protection Agency has called for a substantial and sustained increase in investment in public waste water treatment infrastructure to protect public health and the environment on foot of substantial discharges of raw sewage last year.

The EPA’s 2015 Urban Waste Water Treatment Report details a litany of failures and problems with sewage treatment all over the country.

Twenty-nine large towns and cities including Ringsend, Cork city, Cobh, Youghal, Enniscorthy, Arklow, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Clifden and many more failed to meet mandatory EU sewage standards, the deadline for which was ten years ago.

The EPA says it is unacceptable that the timetable tackling the discharges from 20 of these areas has already slipped by almost two years.

The agency says the current level of capital investment is simply not enough to tackle the infrastructural deficiencies and investment running €100 million per year below the average spent between 2000 and 2011.

EPA programme manager David Flynn said there has been a legacy of decades of under investment in the system and at least €280 million to €300 million a year for the next five to seven years, needs to be invested.

He said that while enormous progress has been made since 2000, in comparison to the rest of Europe, Ireland is lagging behind.

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