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Communities around Ireland benefit from highest ever level of investment in wastewater infrastructure

26 October 2023

Uisce Éireann’s investment in Ireland’s wastewater infrastructure is benefiting communities around the country by supporting growth and development, enhancing water quality and protecting the environment.

The latest EPA Urban Wastewater Treatment Report published today, shows the progress being made in tackling long-running issues like raw sewage discharges, while also underlining the need for continued investment in our essential wastewater services.

2022 saw the highest annual investment in wastewater to date of over €450m as Uisce Éireann continues to make progress in priority areas such as locations where there is raw sewage entering the rivers, lakes and the sea, sites identified by the European Court of Justice under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and sites where urban wastewater is a significant pressure. As the EPA acknowledges, the building, repair and upgrading of Ireland’s wastewater treatment plants and sewer network will require a multi-billion euro investment programme over many years. Uisce Éireann is focussed on delivering the best possible service improvements, while maximising return on investment.

Towns and villages such as Cobh, Bundoran, Duncannon and Liscannor are among 28 around the country benefiting today from cleaner waters and enhanced amenities due to the construction of new treatment plants where none existed previously. There are currently 11 more locations under construction including towns like Arklow, Kilrush  Ballycotton & Ramelton. This means that, since 2014, over 70% of all raw sewage discharges have now been eliminated, with the majority of the rest to be ended by 2025. 

In addition to building new infrastructure where none existed previously Uisce Eireann is also driving sustained improvement in existing wastewater treatment standards. Last year 91% of Ireland’s treatment plants were fully compliant with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. For those plants that are not currently achieving compliance, Uisce Éireann has a plan of action to address any deficiencies and bring them up to the appropriate standard as quickly as possible.

Ireland’s largest wastewater treatment plant in Ringsend is a case in point. The plant, which treats 40% of all the country’s wastewater, is currently undergoing a €550m upgrade which will mean that by the end of this year, it is expected to be achieving full compliance. 

Other key projects around the country include the €114 million Athlone Main Drainage project which will support growth in the area and enhance water quality in the river Shannon, and the now completed upgrade of the Mallow wastewater treatment plant and network in Cork to ensure compliance with the European Court of Justice ruling in relation to wastewater collection systems.

Brian Sheehan, Uisce Éireann’s Head of Infrastructure Delivery, noted that: “Ending raw sewage discharges and improving wastewater treatment for cities, towns and villages across the country are priorities for Uisce Éireann. We are making huge strides in addressing these issues and we are now seeing real and tangible benefits from the unprecedented level of investment in this essential infrastructure. To date over 70% of raw sewage discharges nationwide have been eliminated and we are on track to end the majority by 2025. Our targeted programme of investment in existing wastewater plants and networks is also helping to protect the environment and enhance water quality.

“The timely delivery of this infrastructure and services is a critical component in supporting sustainable social and economic development. Last year we invested over €1bn in water and wastewater projects, and we will need to maintain this level of funding in the years to come. It will also be necessary to address existing issues in our planning and approvals system so that large scale critical infrastructure can progress within a reasonable timeframe. We will continue to work with Government and our regulators, including the EPA and CRU, to ensure we can rise to the challenge of delivering transformative wastewater services to enable communities to thrive.