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Government must increase investment in wastewater treatment to avoid massive EU fines – Ó Broin

18 May, 2017 - by Eoin Ó Broin TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin has called on the Government to increase investment in wastewater treatment in order to avoid potentially massive EU fines. This comes on foot of the European’s Commission’s decision in February to launch court proceedings against the state for breaching the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

Speaking today after the Committee meeting where it heard evidence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Irish Water, Deputy Eoin Ó Broin said:

“The EPA and Irish Water were invited into the committee as a result of the European Commission decision in February to bring the state to the European Court of Justice for breaching the urban waste-water treatment directive.  The state is now potentially facing massive fines as a result of the infringement process currently underway for failing to ensure that urban waste water in 38 urban areas across the state is adequately collected and treated in order to prevent serious risks to human health and the environment.

“It was disappointing that the Department of Housing was not in attendance at the meeting today as it is the Government that is facing the EU infringement proceedings. The EPA stated that it had concerns about 127 wastewater treatment sites across state.

 “Irish Water outlined their plans to bring the 38 treatment plants up to an adequate standard by 2021. However, during questioning, it was not clear whether their investment programme is sufficient to achieve this.

“In response to a parliamentary question in March, Minister Coveney confirmed that €1 billion in funding is needed to bring these wastewater plants up to scratch. However, in the Committee today, we were told that only €620m would be made available between 2017 and 2021 to remedy the problem.

“I am concerned that the level of investment provided to 2021 to fix these plants will not be enough to address the serious health and environmental issues arising from the ongoing breaches of our wastewater treatment obligations.

“The decrepit wastewater infrastructure is a direct result of decades of under investment by successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led governments. The Irish state has had nearly twenty years to fully implement the urban wastewater treatment directive. It can delay no longer. The Committee has proposed inviting the EPA back in very six months to provide updates on how the state is working to tackle this problem.” 

Note: Please see the PQ response in question below


DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney)

by Deputy Eoin Ó Broin

for WRITTEN ANSWER on 21/03/2017

To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning; Community and Local Government the estimated amount it would cost to adequately upgrade the infrastructure in the wastewater plants in the 38 agglomerations across the State that are deemed to be in breach of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.


The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive mandates the required standards for the collection and treatment of waste water from urban areas and sets various deadlines for meeting these standards. All requirements of the Directive should have been met by the end of 2005 at the latest. As such, achieving compliance with the requirements of this Directive is a long standing issue.

With regard to the 38 agglomerations identified in the current EU infringement process, Irish Water estimate that investment of €1bn in waste water treatment plants is necessary to ensure adequate treatment of waste water from these urban areas.

It must be emphasised that this is the level of investment necessary to address specific failures with regard to appropriate treatment of waste water in the 38 agglomerations. Further significant investment is required to ensure ongoing compliance in all agglomerations, facilitate ongoing capital maintenance and upgrade needs, ensure the proper functioning of waste water collection systems, and provide for adequate treatment capacity to facilitate future population and economic growth.

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