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Cllr James Byrne / ‘Irish Water laying blame elsewhere for own failings’

James Byrne
Drogheda Borough councillor James Byrne, photographed at the Highlanes Gallery. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

The Environmental Protection Agency has urged Irish Water ‘in the strongest possible terms’ to take all steps necessary to reduce emissions and rid Drogheda of the smell emanating from the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

The smell has plagued the town for months, with the EPA having first received reports of of odour complaints from residents in the vicinity of the plant on the Marsh Road in April of this year.

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Speaking at the October meeting of Louth County Council on Monday afternoon, Fianna Fáil councillor for Drogheda James Byrne shared correspondence he has recently received from the EPA in which the agency stated they are not in a position to revoke Irish Water’s wastewater discharge license.

‘Irish Water is responsible for the management, operation and compliance with emission limit values for wastewater treatment plants in Louth. In 2019 and 2020 to date wastewater discharge in Drogheda was non-compliant with the Emissions Limit Values as per their EPA wastewater discharge licence,’ the correspondence read.

‘The Office of Environmental Enforcement has not considered revocation of this licence because the regulations do not provide for revocation of a waste water discharge licence. However, the EPA has instructed Irish Water in the strongest terms to take all steps necessary to comply with the emission limit values set in the wastewater licence.

‘Irish Water have reported nine emission limit value exceedances to the EPA for 2020 alone for ammonia and total nitrogen. Irish Water were instructed to implement preventative and corrective action to resolve these non-compliances.

‘The EPA records indicate that the licensee, Irish Water, has submitted twenty four incidents relating to Emissions Limit Value breaches to the EPA since 2015 (since the online enforcement notification system launched).’

Cllr Byrne told the meeting that Irish Water were guilty of laying the blame for the situation elsewhere and he requested that the local authority request results of ambient odour monitoring, which is supposed to be carried out by the company.

“Irish Water itself has committed to reducing the risk of foul odours through a series of measures yet the smell is still there,” he said. “Remarkably similar concerns have been raised on the floor of the Dáil about Irish Water’s management of waste water in other parts of the country so this issue is certainly not confined to Drogheda.

“The question has to be asked is Irish Water the competent authority to manage Ireland’s waste water into the future They are doing a wonderful job of laying the blame elsewhere for their own failings.

In response, the local authority’s Head of Water Services Bernie Woods said the council “don’t control anything” to do with wastewater treatment plants.

“There is nothing we can do. We don’t have the right to inspect the plants. The EPA is the body that inspects those kind of areas,” she said.

In June, an EPA inspection in the town found there were detectable ‘odours in the community…that were attributable to the wastewater treatment plant.’

Irish Water announced confirmed during the summer that they would begin to repair three preliminary treatment tanks on site.

They said it would ‘improve the performance of the tanks and may assist in minimising the risk of odours from the plant in the longer term.’ The three tanks were to be drained and cleaned before repairs are carried out, with the company saying that some ‘intermittent’ odours may arise whilst work was being carried out.

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