Irish Water pleads guilty to polluting habitat of endangered mussel in Co Cork

Ammonia and orthophosphate discharges from firm’s Boherbue plant at multiples of permitted levels

Patrick Chan, an inspector with the Environmental Protection Agency, leaves  Dublin District Court on Monday after he gave evidence in a prosecution against Irish Water for pollution in a river in Co Cork. Photograph: Collins Courts

Patrick Chan, an inspector with the Environmental Protection Agency, leaves Dublin District Court on Monday after he gave evidence in a prosecution against Irish Water for pollution in a river in Co Cork. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Irish Water has pleaded guilty to contaminating the habitat of an endangered species of mussel in a conservation area along a Co Cork river.

The utility admitted to eight counts at Dublin District Court of breaching the terms of its licence in connection with levels of ammonia and orthophosphate from a wastewater treatment plant in Boherbue. The prosecution was brought by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The court heard the level of ammonia discharged into the Brogeen river was seven times that permitted in the plant’s licence over the last four years, and five times the set limit for orthophosphate.

Patrick Chan, an EPA inspector, said the river was a protected conservation area and home to the freshwater pearl mussel, which is on the verge of extinction. The pollution had consquences for the mussel, he said.

He agreed with prosecution solicitor JP McDowell that upgrade work was due to be completed by the end of 2014, but the deadline was pushed back to 2019 and then to this year. The latest update was that it would be completed in 2024, he said.

Irish Water was previously fined €4,000 for not having the plant rebuilt on time. Eoghan Cole, defending, said it was accepted that priority had been given by Irish Water to capital upgrades in the Cork city area.

Judge Halpin suggested that a temporary filter should be installed and warned Irish Water it was getting a last chance to do something about the plant. The case was adjourned to January 31st.