THOUSANDS of manufacturing jobs will be put at risk if Government bodies insist on the full implementation of existing European Union wastewater directives, Mayor of Clare, Councillor Tony Mulcahy has claimed.
Councillor Mulcahy launched a blistering attack on EU directives during a discussion on the impact of introducing new standards for water quality, as part of the Draft River Basin Management Plan, at an Environmental and Water Services Strategic Policy Committee meeting on Monday.
Once standards are implemented by Clare County Council, Councillor Mulcahy warned that existing plants in the Shannon Industrial Estate and elsewhere in the county would have to retrofit new on-site wastewater pre-treatment facilities to ease the burden on the Shannon sewage treatment plant.
He cited a case where a company had to spend in the region of €30,000 on providing a basic grease extraction facility.
“We can’t afford to implement these EU directives. There is no way that any Clare company should be asked to retrofit their premises at the present time. Companies are struggling to hold on to the jobs they have and any requirement that results in significant new costs will put them out of business.
“It is time that we had a good dose of cop-on in relation to directives. If this is the way the EU is going, maybe it is time to leave Europe,” he said.
He also claimed EU directives regulating standards in the catering industry are not being applied in all EU countries.
“We have all seen cases of where EU directives don’t seem to apply in other countries. If you go to a restaurant in Spain and Portugal, you will have to reverse into one small toilet cubicle for over 100 customers. Here in Ireland, we have to provide one toilet for about 20 customers. There seems to be different rules for different countries,” he claimed.
He added that a number of Government bodies, including the Department of Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are insisting that any new industries should comply with these directives, which is making it more difficult to attract new enterprises.
He suggested the only other alternative is to upgrade the Shannon sewage treatment plant at an estimated cost of between €7 and €8 million, which is extremely unlikely considering the dramatic reduction in funding for Clare County Council across a number of departments.
Under the Draft River Basin Management Plan, Clare County Council, like other local authorities throughout the country, has been given a number of years to implement a wide range of EU directives designed to improve groundwater and the quality of water in rivers and lakes.
A council spokesperson said the authority would continue to work with companies to examine options, including the reduction of material requiring wastewater treatment through recycling, to minimise the need for costly new treatment facilities.
She explained that both domestic and industrial effluent requires treatment at the Shannon sewage treatment plant at Traderee. While there is no problem with treating domestic effluent, a higher standard is now required for effluent produced by companies in the area.