Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Project is one of the most important of a number of major investments in both water supply and wastewater that Irish Water will be rolling out in the region to support the economic projections for growth for the Greater Dublin Area.

Wastewater from homes and businesses needs to be collected and treated to ensure it is not a threat to public health or the environment when returned to a river or to the sea.

Ringsend WWTP currently discharges treated wastewater into the Lower Liffey Estuary via an outfall located approximately 1km from the facility. Under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, the Lower Liffey Estuary is designated as a (nutrient) sensitive waterbody.  This designation requires the WWTP to reduce nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) to below a specified level before discharging into a nutrient sensitive waterbody.

The Ringsend WwTP is currently operating at levels in excess of its intended design capacity, with wastewater of up to 1.9m population equivalent requiring treatment. In order to treat the current wastewater load to the required standard and to allow for future growth in population and industry, the plant must be upgraded. The need for this upgrade project was highlighted in the Greater Dublin Strategic Drainage Study (2005) and associated Strategic Environmental Assessment (2008). Irish Water has assessed and reaffirmed the need for the Ringsend upgrade project.

Subject to An Bord Pleanála approval, this upgrade project will allow the Ringsend WwTP to treat the increasing volumes of wastewater arriving at the plant to the required standard and capacity, enabling future housing and commercial development and helping to ensure that Dublin is able to sustain continued growth. When all the proposed works are complete, the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant will be able to treat wastewater for up to 2.4 million population equivalent while meeting the standards of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

In 2012, Dublin City Council obtained planning consent from An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) provisions of the planning and development acts. The planning consent was to expand the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant to its ultimate capacity and to relocate the discharge of treated wastewater from the Ringsend Plant out into Dublin Bay, through the construction of a 9km undersea tunnel.

In January 2014, the responsibility for the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant was transferred to us from Dublin City Council. An advanced nutrient reduction treatment technology has been identified that was not available as an option to Dublin City Council in 2012. This technology is known as Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS) and would allow treated wastewater to remain and be safely discharged at its current location, avoiding the need to construct the 9km long undersea tunnel in Dublin Bay.

AGS technology is based on a naturally-occurring treatment process that takes place in our lakes, rivers and estuaries where micro-organisms and bacteria breakdown biodegradable pollutants. AGS technology allows for the breakdown of biodegradable pollutants at a faster rate than would happen in the natural environment. The process is carefully controlled at a wastewater treatment plant to achieve the required effluent water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, in accordance with relevant EU Directives. AGS is an advanced nutrient removal technology that is a further development of the activated sludge process.

AGS technology was not available for consideration at the time of the original planning application in 2012. Since this time, wastewater treatment plants using AGS technology have also come into operation in the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and most recently, in Clonakilty and Carrigtohill, Co. Cork.

We have conducted detailed testing and trials of the technology since April 2015 to treat the wastewater being received at the Ringsend plant. These trials have proved successful; confirming that wastewater treated by AGS technology can be safely discharged to the Lower Liffey Estuary and Dublin Bay.

If approved, the use of this AGS technology at Ringsend will maximise treatment capacity and efficiency at the plant.

The impacts of tunnel construction could be entirely avoided, including the 70,000 heavy goods vehicles involved in removing material excavated from the 9km long tunnel. Significant project savings will also be made by not constructing the undersea tunnel.

A much higher treated effluent quality would also be achieved and, even at full future capacity, emissions from the plant would be significantly lower than at present.

The revised project we are proposing also provides for the recovery of phosphorus (a non-renewable resource), this finite resource would otherwise be discharged to Dublin Bay with the loss of its re-use potential in agriculture.

An Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) is an analysis of the likely effects (good and bad), that a proposed development may have on the environment. This includes any likely effects on people, flora, fauna, soil, water, air, landscape and cultural heritage.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the possible effects on the environment of a project before a decision is made whether or not to proceed with that project. The steps in the EIA process are set out in national and EU legislation. Most large-scale infrastructure projects are subject to EIA as part of their planning consent process.

When a project proposer submits its application for consent to An Bord Pleanála it must include an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) describing the project and its anticipated effects on the environment. A period of public consultation then follows, during which the public and any interested body may make comments and observations to An Bord Pleanála on the project and its environmental effects. An Bord Pleanála must then undertake an environmental impact assessment of the project before making its determination on the application.

The Birds and Habitats Directives of the European Union (EU) set out various procedures and obligations including the establishment of Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for the protection of specific habitats and species. Collectively, the SPAs and SACs established throughout the EU comprise a network known as Natura 2000.

The Habitats Directive imposes a duty on Member States to consider the possible nature conservation implications of any project on the Natura 2000 site network before any decision is made to allow that project to proceed. This assessment procedure is known as Appropriate Assessment and is quite similar to the EIA procedure. It is normally undertaken at planning consent stage by An Bord Pleanála.

Like the EIA procedure, a document is prepared by the project proposer and submitted with its application for project consent. This document is known as a Natura Impact Statement (NIS). While there is significant overlap between the EIA and AA processes, it should be noted that the NIS and AA only consider and assess impacts on the Natura 2000 network and that AA is a separate legal consent process distinct from EIA.

Irish Water has submitted a planning application for strategic infrastructure development to An Bord Pleanála seeking permission to further progress the upgrade of the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant (WwTP). The application seeks permission for works required to facilitate the use of Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS) technology, to omit the previously permitted long sea outfall tunnel and to upgrade the sludge treatment facilities at Ringsend, Dublin 4, and to provide for a Regional Biosolids Storage Facility in Newtown, Dublin 11. An Bord Pleanala will hold a seven week statutory consultation on the application,

The consultation period commences on Tuesday 12 June 2018.  Submissions or observations can be made in writing to An Bord Pleanála up until 5:30pm on Tuesday 31 July 2018.

  • Post to The Secretary, An Bord Pleanála, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1, D01 V902
  • Or delivering them to the Board’s offices. (Office hours are 9.15am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, except on public holidays and other days on which the offices are closed).

Any submissions or observations must be accompanied by a fee of €50 and must include the following information:

  • Name and address of the person making the submission or observation
  • Subject matter of the submission or observation
  • Reasons, considerations and arguments in full

Any enquiries relating to the application process should be directed to the Strategic Infrastructure Section of the Board (Tel: +353 1 858 8100).

The application may be viewed at/downloaded from: www.ringsendwwtpupgrade.ie

All documents may be inspected free of charge or purchased on payment of a specified fee (which shall not exceed the reasonable cost of making such copy) during public opening hours for a period of seven weeks commencing on Tuesday 12 June 2018 at the following locations:

  • The Offices of An Bord Pleanála, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1
  • The Offices Dublin City Council, Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8
  • The Offices of Fingal County Council, County Offices, Grove Road, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15
  • The Offices of Fingal county Council, Fingal County Hall, Main Street, Swords, Fingal, Co. Dublin

Biosolids contain high levels of nutrients and are sustainably reused as an organic fertiliser in agriculture, in compliance with EU and National regulations. Approximately 98% of biosolids produced in Ireland are reused on agricultural lanBiosolids are only applied to lands during the planting seasons each Spring and Autumn. For the rest of the year biosolids need to be stored. No further treatment of the material is required and no treatment will take place at the storage facility. Under the new strategic infrastructure planning application, the Ringsend WwTP will have the capacity to serve the Greater Dublin Area, including parts of Kildare and Meath for the next 25 years.

Irish Water commenced a site selection process in February 2017 that included three stages of public consultation to identify a preferred site for a Regional Biosolids Storage Facility.

This process identified a preferred site for the facility at Newtown, Dublin 11.  A six week non-statutory consultation was held on the identified preferred site and the factors to be considered in the development of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR).  The preferred site has undergone all relevant environmental studies and assessments as part of the preparation of a planning application for the project.

For more information on the regional biosolids storage facility, visit our Biosolids page.

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