02 July 2009

EPA threatens Legal Action over Sewerage

Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promised to take legal action against the country's local authorities, unless there is an improvement in the operation and monitoring of sewerage works.

The EPA's latest report focuses on waste water discharges from Ireland's cities and towns during 2006 and 2007.

Of the 192 treatment plants tested, 51% did not meet EU standards because "they were not operating properly or were overloaded".

At least 20 areas in Ireland do not have secondary treatment, which means effluent is being released into the sea.

These include Bray in Co. Wicklow, Clifden in Co. Galway, Killybegs in Co. Donegal and Kinsale in Co. Cork.

EPA enforcement officer Dara Lynott stated that new licensing powers will result in enforcement action, including prosecutions, being taken against failing local authorities.

Environment Minister John Gormley (right) said it was "quite unacceptable" that a quarter of non-compliance levels can be attributed to the insufficient levels of sampling by the local authorities.

Local authority officials are among the best-paid people in Ireland, and their jobs are among the safest in the country. But it appears that they are either unwilling or unable to do their jobs properly. One of the main reasons for that is the still rampant nepotism that rules Ireland. People are appointed to positions or given certain jobs not on the basis of their qualifications and skills, but on the basis of their personal connections. Often membership of a political party or family ties play a role as well.
The result is widespread sloppiness, shoddy workmanship and carelessness in many areas. Combined with the general lazy and laid-back attitude of many Irish people, it creates a climate of incompetence and mismanagement.

So the threat of legal action from the EPA is a step in the right direction that will - hopefully - wake up the sleeping local councillors and their officials. However, there is one little flaw in the concept: If a local authority would be found guilty of breaking EU regulations or having acted negligant, the worst that can happen to it is a fine. No council official will go to prison for water pollution.
And who do you think will provide the money to pay the fine? Yes - you guessed correctly: We, the taxpayers and ratepayers will foot the bill.

As much as I welcome the more forceful approach of the EPA, I think that the agency needs a lot more powers. Only then will it be taken for serious by local authorities who need to get their houses in order and their sewage systems and treatment plants working properly and according to EU regulations.

The Emerald Islander

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