EPA looking into alleged pollution of River Nore by effluent

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched an investigation into allegations that the River Nore in Kilkenny city is being polluted by effluent from a sewage treatment plant.

Over the past week, residents have complained of a foul discharge pouring into the river at Purcellsinch on the outskirts of the city. Results from samples taken last Thursday by officials from the EPA should become available later today, according to a spokeswoman.

She confirmed that inspectors from the EPA's office of environmental enforcement would be carrying out further investigations.

A spokesman for Kilkenny County Council said the sewage treatment plant is "working properly" and described the discharge as a "clear liquid and not a brown sludge". He was "confident" the results of the analysis will prove that the effluent will be "within the EU standards for discharge to salmonid rivers".

A local residents' group yesterday decided to take samples for "independent" testing. They filled glass containers which showed muddied water containing semi-solid material flowing from a pipe into the river.

Their spokesman, John Brett, described the content as resembling "oxtail soup" which, on a normal day, "would be as clear as river water". These samples were sent to a private laboratory in Dún Laoghaire last night to be analysed.

There have also been numerous complaints of unpleasant odours in the city.

Cllr Mary White, deputy leader of the Green Party, who visited the site yesterday, said "the stench was appalling" and was causing "local hardship".

Mr Brett, who operates a sawmills business near the river, said "the smell of hydrogen sulphide" can be so bad his family has had to leave home on several occasions as "it wasn't safe to stay in the house".

But the council said that while, for most of the year, the odour is "what you would normally expect from a working plant", this can increase when " large fluctuations occur in the volumes and strengths of industrial effluents being discharged". It stressed that the odour being emitted "is a nuisance but is not hazardous to health".

The council blamed the odours on industrial effluent, including unauthorised discharges of effluent which it is trying to identify. The spokesman said there have been unauthorised discharges into the sewerage systems, including the illegal disposal of the contents of private septic tanks.

He also said "food macerators, which chop up waste food and then send it down the sewer, also contribute to the problem", and that the council is "currently working to eliminate this practice in the city".

Local anglers who abandoned fishing this weekend at sites close to the discharge said they feared "a major fish kill soon" and also said the "sludge is silting up the gravel beds for spawning fish".

Fianna Fáil councillor Andrew McGuinness, who visited the riverbank at Purcellsinch yesterday, said the discharge was a "health and safety issue" and expressed concern for swimmers in towns and villages downriver.