Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
1043. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the impact the raw sewage that is being released into the sea by the wastewater treatment plant in Ringsend is having on the water quality in Dublin Bay and the surrounding environment; and if the sewage releases from the wastewater treatment plant are contributing to the increase of the algae ectocarpus on Sandymount Strand in view of the fact it is not believable that the raw sewage released into Dublin Bay is having no impact on the environs. [10784/20]
Dublin Bay is a complex eco-system. The EPA has classified the water quality in Dublin Bay as ‘good’ under the water framework directive for the period 2013 to 2018, an improvement on the ‘moderate’ status achieved during the 2007 to 2009 period.
Significant investment in waste water infrastructure continues and is provided for in the Irish Water Strategic Funding Plan. It is estimated that €1.9bn will be invested in waste water projects between 2019 to 2024. It is well known that our waste water networks require ongoing and sustained investment to bring these up to the required standard of treatment; to deal with population growth; and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Ringsend wastewater treatment plant was originally designed and built to treat wastewater for a population equivalent of 1.64 million and is now overloaded. In response, Irish Water is currently undertaking a major upgrade of the plant to ensure that the wastewater is treated to the required standard, to reduce nutrient discharges, and to improve the water quality in the Lower Liffey Estuary. Irish Water is installing a novel Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS) technology which is an advanced nutrient removal process that is designed to consistently produce high-quality treated waste-water which can be safely discharged into Dublin Bay. This upgrade will increase the capacity of the plant to cater for the growing population of the Greater Dublin Area and will address compliance with EU law. Planning permission was granted for the project in April 2019, and will be completed in two phases; bringing the plant up to compliance with EU law in 2022 and a capacity upgrade by 2024.
There are instances of bathing water quality issues in some areas of the Bay. There are multi-faceted sources of pollution that may be impacting on the bathing water quality in Dublin Bay. This includes sewer misconnections to surface water drains and streams, sewer storm water overflows, wildlife and dog-fouling. The Dublin local authorities are working together to diagnose the root-causes and put in place programmes to solve these issues.
It should be noted, that any water that is released from storm-water overflows into Dublin Bay happens after heavy or prolonged spells of rain, and has been heavily diluted with rainwater.
1044. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he has considered whether raw sewage being released into Dublin Bay has Covid-19; if there is a process for testing if it has Covid-19; and if the sewage can be tested if that is not already being done. [10785/20]
Ireland is following the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the advice of our own health authorities. As this is a novel virus, evidence and information on COVID-19 is increasing on a daily basis. According to the most recent guidance from the WHO, published 23 April 2020, the main routes of transmission are respiratory droplets and direct contact. The risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus from the faeces of an infected person appears to be low.
Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local level. In that role, Irish Water is in contact with water and waste water utility companies across Europe to exchange international experience and information on responding to the operational and other risks associated with COVID-19.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the Directorate General for Environment are jointly organising a waste water based monitoring system for the prevalence of COVID-19 in the populations and had looked for other member states to participate in this programme. UCD has recently been awarded funding from the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), and will be working in collaboration with Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Irish Water, with testing beginning from the Ringsend plant. This research will be used to determine if the monitoring of RNA traces of the coronavirus in sewage is useful to detect the circulation of the virus among the population in support of other public health monitoring and testing mechanisms.