Questions re Environment: Pollution of North County Dublin Beaches

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Dáil Issues, Environment

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the steps he has taken in relation to the do not swim notices which have been repeatedly issued in June 2016 in Portmarnock, Balbriggan and Skerries, County Dublin as a result of overflows in the Portmarnock Strand Pumping Station and Hampton Cove Pumping Station; and how he will address this matter.
– Clare Daly.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 21st June, 2016.

Ref No: 16685/16

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney)

I am aware of concerns regarding discharges in the functional area of Fingal County Council . However, neither I nor my Department has any direct role in monitoring or supervising the delivery of water services or any pollution incidents arising therefrom.

Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels for public water services, including the delivery of water services capital infrastructure, encompassing the management of urban waste water collection and treatment infrastructure. All discharges to the aquatic environment from sewerage systems owned, managed and operated by Irish Water require a waste water discharge licence or certificate of authorisation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the authorisation process provides for the EPA to place stringent conditions on the operation of such discharges to ensure that potential effects on the receiving water bodies are strictly limited and controlled.

The EPA is a key statutory body for investigating complaints of pollution and for the enforcement , both directly and through oversight of local authorities, of environmental legislation in Ireland, including compliance in relation to licensed urban waste water discharges. Details of all prosecutions taken by the EPA for pollution incidents and details of its enforcement activities are published on the EPA’s website ( http://www.epa.ie/enforcement/).

The EPA’s Bathing Water Quality Report for 2015 identifies several bathing waters adjacent to urban areas as being prone to episodic pollution events and being of less than ‘good’ water quality status. These pollution events are generally associated with overflows from pumping stations or storm outfalls as a result of sewer network blockages or following heavy rainfall. The EPA report highlights that significant infrastructural investment will be required to reduce the likelihood of recurrence of pollution events in these urban areas.

The imposition of bathing prohibitions by local authorities in the event of discharges or following intense localised rainfall is done with regard to public health on a precautionary principle. All such incidents are reported to the EPA’s wastewater enforcement system and are publicised on the SPLASH website at http://splash.epa.ie/#, which is the national bathing water information website for identified bathing waters around Ireland.