What is wastewater?

We all create wastewater in our everyday lives. At home, we access water with ease; we turn the tap, we flush the toilet and we hit the button on the washing machine. Industry, hospitals, schools and offices also create wastewater.

Wastewater can contain a wide range of contaminants, some of which can be broken down in the environment easily while others not so easily, and must therefore be treated to ensure that it is not a threat to public health or the environment when discharged to the receiving environment. Wastewater is collected and transported via underground sewers / pipelines to be treated at a wastewater treatment plant (WwTP).

Why do we need to treat wastewater?

Untreated wastewater poses a threat to public health and the environment. Treatment is therefore carried out in order to produce an environmentally safe liquid that is suitable for disposal to our aquatic environment, such as rivers, lakes and seas.

Proper wastewater treatment systems are essential for sustaining modern living and contributing to development as householders, businesses, industries, schools and hospitals all rely on a robust wastewater treatment system to maintain their daily activities.

How is wastewater treated?

The sewerage system transports wastewater via underground sewers / pipelines to a wastewater treatment plant where it is treated to strict standards under EPA licence and in compliance with EU and national water quality legislation, to a standard that is safe to be discharged to the environment.

At the treatment plant, contaminants are removed including fats, oils and greases along with biological matter such as bacteria and faecal matter.

For more information on the wastewater treatment, check out our section From Drain to Sea.

Why is the Arklow wastewater treatment plant being developed?

At present, untreated wastewater from homes and businesses in Arklow is discharged directly into the Avoca River that runs directly through Arklow Town, County Wicklow and is crossed by the Nineteen Arches Bridge.

This practice of discharging untreated wastewater to the river is no longer acceptable and Irish Water intends to fix this problem in partnership with Wicklow County Council. Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant (WwTP) will bring benefits to Arklow in terms of health, integrity of the environment and improved water quality for all.

What is the proposed timescale for the project?

Subject to planning consent, construction will begin by the end of 2019 at the earliest. The project will take approximately three years to construct.

What is the planning process for the project?

An Bord Pleanála is the authority that will determine the outcome of the planning application made by Irish Water for the project and it will then manage a statutory public consultation.

Irish Water will submit a planning application to An Bord Pleanála, complete with an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) in 2018.

The application will be for the preferred project solution as follows:-

  • A new wastewater treatment plant to treat wastewater for a population equivalent of 36,000 (PE);
  • Interceptor sewer pipelines along the North and South Quays to bring untreated wastewater to the wastewater treatment plant;
  • A marine outfall pipe to safely discharge treated effluent to the Irish Sea.

How can I contact the project team with feedback or questions?

Members of the public are welcome to contact the project team with any questions on the Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant planning application and can do so in the following ways: 

Email: arklowtp@water.ie 
Phone: LoCall 1890 100 095 (9am–5pm, Monday-Friday except bank holidays)
Web: www.arklowwastewater.ie

What is non-statutory consultation?

The consultation undertaken on the Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant project to date has been non-statutory. Non-statutory consultation is not required by law but is undertaken by the project team to provide opportunities for the public to inform the development of the project before a planning application is made.

Will there be future public consultations for the Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant project?

The third and final non-statutory public consultation closed in November 2017. When Irish Water submits the planning application to An Bord Pleanála in 2018 it will be followed by a statutory phase of public consultation. This statutory phase will be carried out by An Bord Pleanála and represents a further opportunity to have your say.

Members of the public and interested parties can make observations and submissions on the planning application directly to An Bord Pleanála up until 5.30pm on Friday, 9 November 2018.

Where is the wastewater treatment plant to be built?

The emerging preferred site for the Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant is the Old Wallboard Factory site located at Ferrybank, Arklow.

A series of site assessments were undertaken as part of the site selection process.

Phase 1 - The site assessment process commenced in 2014 and assessed the suitability of a series of ten potential land parcels across Arklow against environmental (such as ecology, visual, traffic, odour, noise) and technical / economic criteria (including safety, planning, engineering, cost). Three potential land parcels were identified following this process.

Phase 2 - A further assessment of the three shortlisted land parcels was carried out, incorporating the interceptor sewers and outfalls against a range of environmental and technical criteria which resulted in the identification of the emerging preferred site, located at the Old Wallboard Factory site, Ferrybank, Arklow.

How is wastewater transported to the treatment plant?

Wastewater will be transported from homes and businesses to the wastewater treatment plant (WwTP) through an underground drainage network. The Arklow Wastewater Treatment Works project therefore includes a new drainage network to carry the wastewater to the WwTP for treatment.

How much wastewater will the project treat?

Wastewater treatment plants are described in terms of their designed treatment capacity, which is generally expressed as population equivalent (PE).

This is a measurement of total organic biodegradable load, including industrial, institutional, commercial and domestic organic load, on a wastewater treatment plant, converted to the equivalent number of population equivalent (PE). One person is considered to generate 60g of BOD per day (BOD is the 5 day biochemical oxygen demand); and 1PE is defined as being equivalent to 60g of BOD per day.

In the case of Arklow WwTP, the population equivalent will be approximately 36,000 PE.

What is an EIAR?

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.

Simply put, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process for anticipating the effects on the environment caused by a development. An Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) is the document produced as a result of that 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.