Cavan Town has been identified as an urban area where the collection and treatment of waste water did not meet European Union (EU) standards in a major EPA report. The problem is that the infrastructure transferring waste water is failing to meet the demands of the county town.
The report by the environmental watchdog shows that County Cavan has five towns on a list of 148 urban areas designated as “priority areas” by the EPA. The five areas identified “where improvements are required to resolve environmental priorities” are: Bailieborough, Ballyconnell, Blacklion, Cavan and Mullagh.
David Shannon of the EPA explained where the county town is falling down: “Cavan Town has a new treatment plant. It is working well. There is a problem with the collection network, which collects it from the houses and the commercial units and conveys it to the treatment plant. Not all of the collected waste water gets to the treatment plant.”
Cavan Town was one of 50 large urban areas across the country where the collection and treatment of waste water did not meet EU standards. The county town was one of only 13 centres across the country to be non-compliant in multiple categories.
“Collection networks have 'spill points' to deal with excess rain or things like that. In some situations these spill out into rivers from time to time. It may have the basic screening, but for the most part it is untreated. It does not get to the plant. We have been highlighting this for a few years and there is work ongoing on the network, it is due to be finished in the coming months,” Mr Shannon said.
The report does not identify any Cavan centre discharging untreated sewage into public waterways. However locally fishermen have relayed anecdotal evidence of the discharge of solid waste into Lough Ramor.
This is not something that has been identified in the report: “The [Virginia] plant is overloaded alright. This means there is more going into it than it is designed to treat. Our assessments are against the basic standards set by the European Union. It did meet those standards, there could well be information that we don't have. Fishermen may see overflows happen, but that is a national issue, there may be a lot happening that we don't have information on,” Mr Shannon pointed out that the EPA monitor over 1,000 sites across Ireland.
Cavan featured prominently in a section “Pressures on water bodies”. These are 59 areas where waste water discharges are identified as the sole pressure on water bodies at risk of not meeting their environmental objectives.
According to the report The Blackwater in Bailieborough, Macnean in Blacklion and Mullagh Lough Stream in Mullagh are all experiencing difficulties because of waste water.
The EPA spokesperson said: “We look at what causes those problems. In many cases it could be multiple pressures, such as industry, farming or waste water. If the only pressure is waste water, we address it then we can return it back to good status.”
The Head of Asset Management with Irish Water, Sean Laffey, said it is committed to having all of the contaminated sites treated by the end of 2021.