Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The River Mahon entering the sea at Bonmahon. The EPA has called for the delivery of a new waste water treatment plant for the area.  

THE provision of a new waste water treatment plant at Bonmahon has been described as ‘imperative’ by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).  

The report, prepared by Dr John Feehan and issued on April 22, followed his visit to Bonmahon on March 16 where he was joined by representatives of both Irish Water and Waterford City & County Council.  

Dr Feehan’s succinct summary stated: “The Bonmahon septic tanks are providing little treatment to the waste water arising in this agglomeration. An assessment of how these septic tanks can be optimised needs to be undertaken as a priority, by Irish Water. Monitoring of the receiving waters from these discharges, the Mahon river and the Ballyristeen Brook, upstream and downstream is needed. It is imperative that the provision of a new waste water treatment plant be prioritised for the Bonmahon agglomeration.”  

The three septic tanks in the area were inspected by Dr Feehan, along with effluent monitoring documents covering the past two years as well as upstream and downstream monitoring data and desludging records for the past two years.  

He noted that there is “no screening or storm water storage capacity at any of the three septic tanks,” adding: “There is a designated bathing water (area) located in the vicinity of the discharge(s) from this agglomeration.”  

Dr Feehan wrote: “Effluent monitoring for just the main septic tank was provided by Irish Water. No effluent monitoring is undertaken by Irish Water on the other two septic tanks… Just one effluent data set for 2021 was provided for the main septic tank. The absence of a second set of data was attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic. Irish Water are to implement an influent and effluent sampling programme on each of the three septic tanks.”  

Given that the influent into the three septic tanks isn’t analysed, the report adds: “it is not possible to establish whether each of them are meeting the treatment criteria for primary treatment. Irish Water are required to put a programme in place immediately, to sample and analyse the influent (and effluent) from each of the three septic tanks, so that it can be established what level of treatment they are providing.”  

In response to the short question, ‘Is the plant overloaded’ came an even shorter reply: ‘Yes’. Dr Feehan writes: “It was stated by Irish Water that the three septic tanks were overloaded and that the collected load was 147 PE (Population Equivalent – which describes the size of a treatment plant). Irish Water are required to confirm the design PE of each of the three septic tanks, the PE load to each of them and to include information of how the PE calculations for each septic tank were established.” 

In addition, there are no stormwater or emergency overflows, nor is there any “provision for storm water control at any of the three septic tanks. Irish Water should ensure that adequate provision is made for storm water control and storage with any upgrade of this plant and that it complies with the Department’s criteria on storm water overflows.”  

Dr Feehan also writes: “There is a designated bathing water (area) located in the vicinity of the discharge(s) from this agglomeration. The three septic tanks that discharge into the Mahon River and the Ballyristeen Brook provide little treatment to the waste water arising in this agglomeration. It is also noted that there appears to be no waste water treatment in place for the local caravan park.” 

In response, Irish Water has been asked to undertake monthly sampling of both the river and the brook both upstream and downstream of the three septic tanks for chemical and microbiological analysis. Meanwhile, the Council is in “ongoing correspondence” with the caravan park owners “to ensure that appropriate waste water treatment arrangements are provided for this site”.  

The report states: “Please note that licensees are required to comply with the conditions of the licence of all time, and where non-compliance occurs, compliance must be verified during subsequent Agency visits.”  

The outdated waste water system servicing Bonmahon was first highlighted by the Waterford News & Star last October, when locals took to the beach to highlight the system’s decades-old deficiencies. The event was attended by Minister of State Mary Butler (FF), Comeragh District Councillor Seanie Power (FG) and Dungarvan/Lismore Cllr Conor McGuinness (SF). Since then, the matter has been raised from the floor of the Dáil on several occasions by Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh (GP).

Irish Water was contacted for further comment in advance of this week’s print edition and replied to this newspaper’s query yesterday (Tuesday) morning. 

A spokesperson stated: “Irish Water is working with Waterford City & County Council to ensure the current system in Bonmahon operates to its optimal level. However, although these systems do provide primary treatment they are limited in their capacity to fully treat the wastewater collected in the combined sewer during heavy rainfall, and recent investigations have shown evidence of wash-throughs of items such as wipes and grease.

“Sampling and accessibility is currently being arranged by the Local Authority. Irish Water’s Process optimisation team have already attended the site to review how the current treatment could be optimised and improved and a flow and load survey will be arranged. Irish Water Operations and the local Authority are engaging with contractors on the swift and safe removal of rags from the riverbed in so far as possible due to access and H&S issues. Irish Water is also liaising with the community to keep them up to date with all works and plans for the site.”

Further reading: https://waterford-news.ie/2021/12/08/meps-warning-over-waste-discharges-into-our-waterways/

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