A third of rivers and half of our lakes ‘polluted’

A third of rivers and half of our lakes ‘polluted’

ONE in three rivers and more than half of all lakes in Ireland are polluted, a key report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published yesterday has revealed.

While most of the country’s drinking water is drawn from these sources, 46pc of all treatment plants are not up to standard.

And despite Ireland’s environment becoming cleaner and less polluted, the Government has no proper plan to clean up the water system despite introducing charges next year.

Current arrangements to address the country’s polluted water are “inadequate”, with big concerns about how hard-pressed local authorities will tackle pollution and guarantee a clean source of drinking water.

Despite these problems, up to 90pc of the country’s 1.35m households will start paying water charges from 2014. The amount to be levied is not yet known, but households in Scotland pay an average of €388 per year.

The lack of a plan to make safe drinking water supplies means Ireland may not meet EU targets to reduce pollution in three years, under the Water Framework Directive, the EPA said.

EPA official and report author Micheal Lehane said the polluted water bodies had been identified, and now needed to be tackled.

“We need to focus on the implementation of the measures,” he said. “The current structures involving the national bodies and local bodies are not optional. There’s a big step-up needed.

“There are 1,000 river sites, and if you focused resources every year you’d make very good progress, but some are more difficult than others.

“Funding, staff and resources have diminished over time, so how are these plans going to be delivered. The EPA’s State of Ireland’s Environment report, which is published every four years, also reveals:

? There has been an overall increase in rivers classed as polluted, and problems exist in one in three.

? There has been a “significant” decline in rivers previously classed as “high status”. Only 46pc of lakes are in good shape.

? Sewage pollution from council treatment plants is the main pollution culprit, but there are also problems from agriculture, forestry, septic tanks and turf cutting.

However, the report concludes that Ireland’s water compares favourably with that in other EU countries, but stresses the importance of improving quality.

This is because up to 17pc of Europe will be affected by water shortages, and businesses will be drawn to Ireland if high quality water can be guaranteed.

– Treacy Hogan and Paul Melia