CLARE County Council has been accused of operating as an unlicensed polluter, by discharging treated wastewater 18 times above recommended EU limits from its wastewater treatment plant at Corofin into the River Fergus.
The charge was levelled by a North Clare civil engineer, who has lodged a formal complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning effluent discharge into a turlough from the authority’s Kilfenora sewerage treatment plant and the outflow of treated sewerage into the River Fergus from its Corofin and Ruan plants, without a licence.
Michael Duffy estimates Clare County Council is discharging about 1000 metres cubed of poorly treated effluent daily from its Corofin and Ruan plants into groundwater, which may end up in the potable water catchment area for Ennis and its environs.
There were significant breaches of the EU Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Suspended Solids EU limits of 20 and 30 micrograms per litre, respectively, during 2008 at the Corofin and Kilfenora plants, according to the results of water quality sampling tests obtained by The Clare Champion.
In 2008, one of the tests from Corofin revealed a BOD reading of 372, over 18 times the maximum limit on June 12; 367 on February 27; 370 on April 30; 208 on July 1; 164 on September 29 and 198 on December 2. Suspended Solids limits were also breached in 2008 with a recording of 138 on February 27; 110 on April 30; 86 on June 12; 96 on July 1; 159 on September 29 and 58 on December 2. Mr Duffy predicts the BOD limit will be reduced to 10 by the EPA in 2011.
Water quality sampling tests conducted by Clare County Council on the Kilfenora plant revealed it marginally breached BOD limits on June 4, 2008 with a reading of 22; 24 on August 27 and 46 on December 12. The Suspended Solids limit hit 43 on April 30, 2008 and 47 on December 2.
Mr Duffy expressed concern about the lack of discharge licences for the three sewerage treatment plants and the absence of assimilative capacity calculations to quantify treated effluent flow, velocity and dilution rates.
He estimated the average on-site treatment system produces 1 m3/day of effluent and alleged it would take about 1,000 one-off houses with poor wastewater treatment to cause as much groundwater pollution as the council.
He also expressed alarm that Ballyalla Lake failed to achieve the minimum mandatory water quality standard last year and claimed it incorporated the Pouladower Spring, which is in close proximity to the Drumcliffe Spring – the main source for the Ennis Water Supply.
He also sent a letter to the HSE’s chief environmental health officer in Clare expressing concern about the discharges from the treatment plants, the partial boil notice for Ennis Water Supply and the alleged link to groundwater source for this supply.
The Mid-West HSE hadn’t responded to a number of Clare Champion queries about the contents of this letter at the time of going to press.
The EPA has forwarded a copy of Mr Duffy’s complaint to the council but hadn’t responded to Clare Champion queries before going to print.
A Clare County Council spokeswoman explained licensing of local authority wastewater treatment plants commenced in 2007 and licence applications for the plants mentioned have been made to the EPA. The spokeswoman stated Mr Duffy’s claims concerning the catchment of Ennis drinking water were not correct.
“Water quality in Ennis is monitored on a daily basis, and meets the water quality regulation standards,” she said.