On February 1st, 2016, Mr Enda Craig, spokesperson for a local County Donegal community group, Save the Foyle, received a communication from the European Commission in Brussels. This correspondence confirmed the group's assertions that Ireland had not complied with an European Court of Justice C-50-09 judgement and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive which was passed in 2011. This means that the Irish Government will have to enact new legislation which complies with the ECJ C-50 ruling and the EIA Directive. What it could also mean is that any relevant planning in Ireland since 2011 assessed under the old discredited legislation using the SI 684 Waste Water Directive, 2007 was illegal.
Save the Foyle is a local Co Donegal group from Moville/Greencastle in Inishowen. They have been campaigning for the past 26 years against plans by Donegal Co Council for a sewage treatment plant and to pump effluent into the mouth of Lough Foyle at Glenburnie beach.
Ms Antoinette Long, European Commission Case handler for Ireland-infringements division in Brussels, responded to Mr Craig's request for clarification on a meeting between the Commission and the Dept of the Environment on November 17th, 2015 in Dublin.
That meeting came about after a 'Save the Foyle' delegation travelled to Brussels and presented their objections about Donegal County Council plans to the Commission. They also put forward their contention that the Irish Government was not in compliance with the EU Directive namely C-50.09 judgement.
In her answer to Mr Craig's query, Ms Long stated that
“Irrespective of what may have been done in the past or of any preparatory work undertaken, we remain confident that no licencing decision will be taken (and consequently no building will be started) until the planned new legislation is in place and a licence has been obtained....... However, we believe that this legislation should ensure compliance with the C-50 judgment in the area of waste water discharge licencing. Therefore any future decision should and must comply with the judgment and with the EIA Directive.”
Mr Enda Craig's statement on behalf of 'Save the Foyle'
"This is what we have argued from day one and finally we have got someone to listen to our concerns. Most of our local politicians rejected us, Donegal Co Council and An Bord Pleanala rejected us, the EPA rejected us, the High Court rejected us as did Irish Water and the the Irish Government. It's a poor reflection on our country that its citizens must go to Brussels to access justice.
Now we have confirmation that Ireland was non compliant with very important legislation involving licensing and planning permission for waste water treatment plants. In particular for a case such as ours we have been seeking the protection of this and other EU legislation which was denied us in the lead up to and the granting of permission for the sewerage scheme.
This has implications for all major planning projects, particularly those that have potential to do serious damage to our environment. A discharge licence cannot just be tagged on at the end of a scheme that has already received planning permission. These schemes must not be split up into separate planning applications and must be assessed as one unit.
Save the Foyle have been down every road to highlight the idiotic decision of Donegal County Council to pump effluent into an enclosed Estuary when access to open sea is available.
In 1990 Donegal County Council elected members unanimously passed a motion to reject any proposal to pump sewage or effluent from the proposed Moville/Greencastle Sewerage Scheme into Lough Foyle and to relocate the proposed treatment plant and outfall pipe at a more suitable location outside of the environs of the Lough. This was overturned by an executive decision and permission was granted.
Ignoring this unanimous decision by the Council caused millions of euro to be spent on consultants proposing a scheme, an ultra expensive oral hearing, an appeal rejected by an Bord Pleanála (despite the opinion to refuse planning permission by the Boards Inspector on three separate occasions).
Our community has had to stump up and support me in an expensive High Court Challenge which I believe failed to identify the requirements of C50/09 in a case of such environmental importance.
Irish Water have taken over responsibility for the Moville proposed treatment works and it's discharge of effluent.
They should halt their plans to continue with procuring the scheme. In the communication from Antoinette Long the Commission states that they anticipate the scheme cannot progress until new legislation is in place.
Irish Water is throwing more good money after bad. This should not be an option.
The responsibility for past 26 years of hell that this little community of Carnagarve has endured must be placed directly at the feet of Donegal County Council.
After having democratically and unilaterally selected the perfect location for the disposal of the properly treated effluent into the Wide Atlantic, North of Greencastle in 1990, they have spent (or rather wasted) millions manipulating the disputed plans.
These 26 years have been made even worse by the despicable treatment we have been subjected to by most of the agencies we have had to deal with. These agencies, whose function should be to inform and assist, have shown themselves incapable of transparency when it came to applying regulations.
Nothing less than a wide ranging investigation should be accepted into the incompetence that has left this community without an up and running plant for this past twenty years.”
Read full ECJ Judgement on www.shelltosea.com
Read full history of the campaign here savethefoyle.com
For other background reading see article nobel-peace-prize-winner-the-sewage-plant-and-irish-water
Midlands North West MEP Marian Harkin has praised the Campaign for a Clean Estuary in Moville after the EU confirmed to the group that Ireland was non compliant in relation to granting planning permission for waste water treatment plants, and new legislation is now necessary.
This impacts on the long running debate about the proposed treatment plant at Carnagarve, which local campaigners believe must now go back to the drawing board.
Marian Harkin says the group’s campaign has been pivotal in highlighting Irish breaches of EU regulations……….
On the face of it you might wonder what is the significance of this ECJ C-50 judgement on a sewage treatment plant and a small, beautiful unspoilt beach in a remote corner of Ireland.
To the handful of dedicated campaigners who have battled for 26 years, this is a major victory.
However, it is not until you look into the implications this judgement may have nationally that you begin to understand the potential significance. The communication from Brussels regarding the meeting with the Irish Government last November, brings up major questions which must be answered. For example why was the Irish Government's not compliant with EU directives since 2011. Why did various planning and environment bodies doggedly pursue the Moville sewage plan under old legislation even though it had been made redundant since 2011? Why were bodies such as Donegal County Council, An Bord Pleanala, the Environment Protection Agency complicit in the questionable plans? Why did the Government squander millions of pounds of tax payer's money. And many, many more questions need answered, not least why did they treat a community for 26 years the way they did?