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EPA report a damning judgement on successive governments -- Morgan

16 August, 2006


Sinn Féin spokesperson for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Arthur Morgan today expressed dismay at a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency that showed almost a third of our tap water supplies are contaminated by health-damaging agricultural pollution and sewage. Deputy Morgan went on to call for better preparation for farmers implementing the Nitrates Directive and for the EPA to be organised on an all-Ireland basis.

The Louth TD said: "This report shows that 30% of our tap water supplies are polluted and this is a completely unacceptable figure. Groundwater is a major source of our drinking water and yet 30% of samples taken by the EPA between 2003 and 2005 were contaminated with faecal e-coli bacteria with the source of this being agricultural waste. The report also stated that 11% of the samples taken were grossly contaminated.

"This level of pollution poses problems to the fish that live in this environment and also poses a substantial risk to our own drinking water. Only 70% of the rivers and streams examined were found to have had satisfactory water quality and nine out of 11 large rivers had considerably higher nitrate samples last year than when they were first sampled in the early 1980s.

"This is a further consequence of the failure by successive Governments to formulate a plan for the implementation of the Nitrates Directive. This was introduced in 1991 but only last year did the Government, under threat from the EU, issue an ultimatum to farmers to comply with the regulation. This threatened to impose severe penalties and costs whereas it could have been introduced gradually over the succeeding 15 years. My colleague Deputy Martin Ferris has called on numerous occasions for farmers to be prepared for the full implementation of the nitrates directive in the interest of the well-being of our environment.

"This EPA report is a damning judgment not just on this Government, but on previous administrations who have failed to appreciate that a clean environment is a basic public good and a fundamental right in need of protection. The contamination of water bodies in border areas and the pollution of our drinking supply underlines the need for a national approach to tackling this problem. Sinn Féin has long argued that the Environmental Protection Agency should be organised on an all-Ireland basis and I would call on Minister Roche to heed our calls."

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