The Irish Times view on Dublin’s water problems: a political failure

Half of the money raised from water charges was to have gone towards sewage treatment – now Irish Water has to queue for funding with other agencies

Following further heavy rain last weekend, the waters at Seapoint, Sandycove (above) and the Forty Foot were declared unfit for bathing, together with Dollymount on the Northside. Photograph:  Terry McDonagh

Following further heavy rain last weekend, the waters at Seapoint, Sandycove (above) and the Forty Foot were declared unfit for bathing, together with Dollymount on the Northside. Photograph: Terry McDonagh

 

Dubliners are living with the result of inadequate investment in sewage treatment systems. Twice this month, families were advised it was unsafe to swim at popular beaches for health reasons, following wastewater discharges from Ringsend treatment plant and Dún Laoghaire pumping station. Heavy rain was to blame. Without provision for storm overflows, Irish Water said, raw sewage could have backed up and flooded homes and businesses.

Irish Water is struggling to deal with years of neglect and under-investment. Plans to develop sewage treatment facilities across the State are well advanced but funding is extremely tight. Half of the money raised from water charges was to have gone towards sewage treatment. Now Irish Water has to queue for funding with other agencies.

The sewage system for the capital is connected to storm drains and is designed to overflow under pressure

Eight Dublin beaches were forced to close during the first week of June because of discharges from the Ringend plant. Following water quality analysis, most were allowed to reopen. Exceptions were Sandymount and Merrion strands where water quality remained poor and had not been directly affected by the Ringsend discharge. Following further heavy rain last weekend, the waters at Seapoint, Sandycove and the Forty Foot were declared unfit for bathing, together with Dollymount on the Northside. Seapoint and the Forty Foot reopened yesterday and Sandycove and Dollymount may do so today.

The barring of parents and children from city beaches for health and safety reasons during the summer months reflects an administrative and political failure. Because of global warming, more frequent summer thunderstorms and extreme weather events can be expected. Yet the sewage system for the capital is connected to storm drains and is designed to overflow under pressure. It does so, on a regular basis, threatening unwary bathers with skin rashes and stomach upsets. Something must change. Additional holding tanks may not serve. The Environment Protection Agency found the discharge of forty tonnes of wastewater from Ringsend had posed unacceptable risks to the environment and to public health.

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