The public has been “penalised” arising from a court case where Clare County Council was fined €3,000 plus costs for discharging raw sewage from the old Scariff sewage treatment plant into the river in Scariff.
The Shannon Fisheries Board prosecuted the county council in respect of a charge of permitting or causing deleterious matter to fall into the River Scariff at Drewsborough on April 20, 2009. The council was also charged with permitting the discharge of effluent at the same location on the same date and a further charge of failing to provide and maintain such means to effectively prevent the passage of any deleterious liquid from that receptacle into such waters.
Killaloe District Court heard on Tuesday that in the course of a routine inspection the Shannon Fisheries Board found red plume and raw sewage with an “extremely high BOD reading” in the River Scariff on April 20, 2009.
Katherine Kiely, who was prosecuting the case on behalf of the Shannon Fisheries Board, said; “Raw sewage was being discharged from the county council waste water treatment plant in Scariff.”
She outlined that the BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) reading and the presence of suspended solids was “extremely high” and she added that such an occurrence can lead to algae blooms and affect fish, bathing and feeding.
Speaking on behalf of Clare County Council, Rachel Dobson, solicitor, outlined the background of this spill.
“The county council initiated a new sewage plant to improve the existing treatment plant in Scariff. They couldn’t decommission the old plant until the new plant was running and therefore both plants had to work together for a time. The old plant was working to capacity and is smaller than the new one so the capacity was greatly increased,” she explained. This, she said, led to sewage spilling into the local river.
“This happened in the context of putting in a new scheme and as a consequence this matter spilled into the river. I am advised that the new plant is eminent,” she concluded.
Ms Kiely stated that while there was no fish kill, “a sewage fungus was present which would indicate that it had been there for some time”. She also sought costs in relation to the case of €1,250.
Judge Joseph Mangan, presiding, asked Ms Kiely if she could confirm who had been discommoded as a result of this sewage spill and she accepted that it was the public who had been affected by it.
“And where does the fine come from and where does the county council get the money from to pay it?” Judge Mangan quizzed.
Ms Kiely explained that both the County Council and the Shannon Fisheries were separate public bodies.
Judge Mangan commented, “The public are being penalised here. It’s a bit of a charade isn’t it?”
“We have to enforce the matter. We would not have taken the case if there wasn’t sufficient concern,” Ms Kiely added.
Judge Mangan fined the county council €1,000 on each count and awarded costs to the Shannon Fisheries Board of €1,250, bringing the total amount to be paid by the council to €4,250. The council was given a month to pay.
Having learnt of the outcome, councillor Pat Hayes said he was disappointed that this route was pursued.
“As a councillor, I’m disappointed. This has been an ongoing problem because the plant was not up to standard, disappointed that we now have positive news of a new treatment plant. I hope that with this due to be commissioned all the issues will be resolved and there will be no further prosecutions. Court cases don’t benefit anyone and maybe if it had been taken sooner it would have helped fast-track the new treatment plant,” Councillor Hayes said.