Ireland is being taken to court over waste water by the European Commission

Ireland is being taken to court over waste water by the European Commission

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has confirmed it plans to take Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU for what it describes as a failure to ensure that urban waste water in 38 areas “is adequately collected and treated to prevent serious risks to human health and the environment”.

Under EU law, towns and cities are required to collect and treat their urban waste water. Untreated waste can put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, coasts, soil and groundwater.

These are the 38 areas (or agglomerations, to use the Commission’s term) in question:

  • Arklow
  • Athlone
  • Ballybofer/Stranorlar
  • Ballincollig New
  • Castlecomer
  • Cavan
  • Clifden
  • Clonakily
  • Cobh
  • Cork City
  • Dundalk
  • Enfield
  • Enniscorthy
  • Fermoy
  • Gaoth Dobhair (Co Donegal)
  • Killarney
  • Killybegs
  • Longford
  • Mallow
  • Midleton
  • Monksland
  • Navan
  • Nenagh
  • Oberstown
  • Pasage/Monktown (Co Cork)
  • Portarlington
  • Rathcormac
  • Ringaskiddy
  • Ringsend
  • Roscommon Town
  • Roscrea
  • Shannon Town
  • Thurles
  • Tralee
  • Tubbercurry
  • Youghal
  • Waterford City

EU member states had until the end of 2000 to ensure appropriate treatment of wastewater from large urban areas (with a population of over  15,000).

Countries were given until 2006 to properly treat discharges from medium-sized areas and discharges into freshwater and estuaries from smaller areas.

The Commission, which is the EU’s independent executive arm, initiated its case against Ireland four years ago and followed up with warnings in 2015 and last year.

Elsewhere in its announcement today the Commission said it was also concerned “about the failure to ensure that a correct operating licence has been issued for the treatment plants serving the agglomerations of Arklow and Castlebridge”.

A recent Commission report found that Ireland faced a major challenge maintaining investments required for water services.

Separately, the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday as it launched its annual report that “substantial and sustained capital investment is required to deliver improved water infrastructure in Ireland”.

Possible fine 

If Ireland is found to be at fault by the Court of Justice of the EU, it will be issued with a further warning to comply with the law or risk a second case being brought, which may result in a fine.

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