Ireland found in breach of wastewater regs

Following the European Commission having filed an action in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) claiming that Ireland had infringed the urban waste water treatment Directive by failing to ensure that waste water emanating from the towns of Bray, Howth, Letterkenny, Shanganagh, Sligo and Tramore, County Waterford and entering collecting systems was made subject to secondary treatment or equivalent by the end of 2000, the ECJ has found Ireland to be in breach of the Urban Wastewater Treatment (UWWT) Directive.

Ireland did not dispute all of the Commission’s claims. Indeed it admitted to the Commission’s complaints as far as they extended to five of the agglomerations in question – Bray, Shanganagh, Sligo, and Tramore, County Waterford. Apart from Howth, Ireland acknowledged that the other towns should have been provided with collecting systems for their urban waste water and that waste water should have been subject to secondary treatment or equivalent.

With respect to Howth, Ireland contended that the provisions of the directive relating to collecting systems for urban waste water and its secondary treatment did not apply. Ireland submitted that on account of works carried out, the population equivalent, representing the organic biodegradable load, had been reduced below the threshold value specified in the directive and therefore did not require a system of secondary treatment to be applied. Furthermore, Ireland insisted that the Howth catchment area was not an agglomeration for the purpose of the Directive.

The ECJ however, held that Ireland had not provided any justification for not considering Howth as an agglomeration, and therefore found that Howth was lacking the necessary system for secondary treatment of collected urban waste water.

Ireland also disputed the Commission’s claims that Letterkenny did not have a secondary treatment plant for urban waste water at the end of 2000. Ireland maintained that despite being prone to seasonal overload, a plant had been in place since 1975. However, the Court commented that the town did not have in place a system for the secondary treatment of collected urban waste water which allowed for complete treatment at all times of the year for all discharges of water.

In upholding the Commissions complaint the Court found Ireland in breach of the urban waste water treatment Directive with respect to waste water emanating from Bray, Howth, Letterkenny, Shanganagh, Sligo and Tramore, County Waterford.

The Judgment of the ECJ can be found here.

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