Community For Clean Estuary responds to Irish Water's public statement on the Moville sewage treatment plan

Enda Craig spokesperson for Community For A Clean Estuary (CFCE) responds to a statement from Irish Water that appeared in Donegal County Council‘s website following a meeting on June 17 in Moville between CFCE and Irish Water Representatives- Irish Water discusses plans to improve coastal waters around Moville

Proposed effluent discharge pipe into Lough Foyle between Moville and Greencastle, County Donegal

Proposed effluent discharge pipe into Lough Foyle between Moville and Greencastle, County Donegal

The recent statement from Irish Water regarding its plan for a Moville sewage treatment scheme which appeared in Donegal Co Co website recently, is proof indeed that the company’s spin doctors or PR department, are very much to the fore. What is presented in that statement bears no resemblance to what occurred at a meeting on June 17 in the Foyle Hotel, Moville, between CFCE and Irish Water.

In my view, Irish Water’s tactic is now to try to trivialise and undermine the Community for a Clean Estuary’s campaign. It doesn’t matter a jot what data or arguments we have put forward, whether they’re about the precautionary principle or local knowledge of tides and their impact; Irish Water have decided to go with a former failed Donegal County Council plan. However, this time it will be in a much reduced format e.g the Greencastle area as well as some housing estates in Moville are now excluded from the plan and will apparently be put on a to-do list for the future.

It was obvious from the tone of the meeting that Irish Water held our campaign to date in poor regard. Its representatives admitted that they had not examined any alternative proposals. They also boasted that that they took comfort that this plan will be successful not only because of CFCE’s past failed High Court case but also because the former plan was past by An Bord Pleanala. The questionable site selection process for the plant and the omitted hydrodynamic study showing dispersal of sewage in Lough Foyle were ignored by Irish Water representatives. Our argument that the High Court failed to recognise that Irish statutory law, was at odds with section 76 of the C50/09 environmental protection, was irrelevant to them. Instead the representatives were belligerent. Backed up by its legal team, they boasted that they would be confident in winning any legal challenge against its plan and that the planning authorities would once again pass the plan.

They confirmed that Irish Water were ready and prepared to fight any legal battle, either in the High Court or in Europe. The use of public funds in this regard was not a matter for the representatives present but more for the board of Irish Water.

We find it incredible that a public body like Irish Water would accuse our group of spreading 'myths' and disinformation when in fact it is them that are doing it. Irish Water is also using Donegal County Council online public information website to do this without allowing any right of reply.  This makes it hard to believe Irish Water's claim about listening to, and its willingness to take on board, public concerns about the proposed sewage treatment plan for Moville and the discharge pipe into Lough Foyle.  This does not bode well for the future nor does it develop trust or confidence. 

Irish Water’s statement lacks facts at various levels and skirts over many weaknesses and deficiencies. Most fundamentally Irish Water is asking us to discuss proposals that are not yet laid out in any formal or legal document.  Really, anything we have been told to date could be changed and it will continue to be so until Irish Water present a formal planning application.  As it stands, the proposal is being touted as the best environmental solution. We believe that it is not and in fact it will deliver a lot less than what Moville and Greencastle deserve.

It is worth noting a number of points in Irish Water statement:

1. Note the use of the word   " coastal  "  in  the heading  in respect of the waters around Moville. 

Foyle estuarine waters were re-classified by the EPA from ' estuarine '  to ' coastal ' in 1995 without any consultation with fishermen or coastal communities. This was to facilitate the implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive which in effect would lower the required environmental protection standards in the estuary and make it easier to dispose of waste water into the marine environment. There was a requirement in the Directive for consultation but none took place prior to this reclassification.

2.   Irish Water state " there are five discharge points ", However, the EPA have stated that there are six discharge points.
The use of photographs showing sanitary waste where no one can identify the area it was taken is disingenuous.
Stating there is the equivalent of 2500 bins of waste while not demonstrating the method of calculation is no way for any engineering company to operate. They could state any number.


They also say  " no longer will any wastewater be discharged into the river and Lough".

As we will see this also is an erroneous statement as they go on to describe how ' storm water ' ( raw sewage and water ) will overflow into the Bredagh at River Row should a rainstorm continue for longer than two hours. 

Their own map  " Dispersal of Raw Sewage in the Event of an Emergency Discharge "  shows raw sewage hugging the coast from Redcastle to Kinnego Bay polluting the water and beaches as it goes. It is their map not ours. It is important to understand that this map was hidden from the local community and only came to light when it was discovered by Oceanographer Mr Mike Quinnell from Singapore while carrying out research for our group. Discovery of this map and the fact that it was hidden caused a serious breach of trust in relation to what now, if anything, we can believe. This breakdown of trust continues to the present day since more and more concerns are coming to light and we are not getting satisfactory answers.

.  Irish Water state: " The new plant will facilitate the decommissioning of more than 15 temporary treatment plants in housing developments in Moville and allow for applications to be made in future to connect them to the public sewer. "

Why are these estates were not included in the present plan? Is there a genuine engineering reason for this? Could it be financial?  Or is it simply, as we see it, an example of giving the community the bare minimum and cheapest option in order to satisfy EU committments.  

4.   Irish Water state:  " Irish Water representatives were able to dispel the myth that discharges from the new treatment plant would pollute the coastline and destroy the beaches. "

As stated above this statement is contradicted by the existence of their own map which was hidden from the public but quite clearly show the dispersal of raw sewage hugging the coastline. This omission was not explained satisfactorily to CFCE and that, as it stands, is a disgraceful example of withholding important and relevant information. Why would you go to the expense and trouble of compiling a complicated dispersal map if, as they state, there would never be any occasion for its use or its findings.

5.    Irish Water state:   “We were delighted to be able to clarity how storm water will be managed and that no storm water will be discharged at the proposed treatment plant at Carnagarve."

This is nothing new. Irish water are attempting to hype up an engineering process that existed in the first planning application and well understood by the CFCE.  It is, in truth, an example of pulling the wool over peoples eyes. Far from being something to boast about it is a cheap nasty method of dumping raw sewage ( storm water is untreated raw sewage plus water )  into the Bredagh  at River Row in the event of a local downpour. The plan includes a two hour storm capacity tank. The outfall from this tank will be more concentrated than the current steady stream flowing down the Breedagh. A serious discharge of this nature at the mouth of the estuary will be highly destructive.. Irish Water state solid effluent will be broken down to 6mm pieces by being pushed through a colander like filter. A tonne of effluent is a tonne of effluent regardless of its form.

In relation to the discharge pipe and the treatment plant no explanation was given in the event of a plant failure or human negligence.

6.   Irish Water state: "The current design will enable the connection of Greencastle at a future date." 

It took a local County Councillor to point out to Irish Water its erroneous claim that Greencastle already had a Waste Water Treatment Plant. Upon investigation it was discovered that Irish Water was trying to pass off a seventy year old septic tank at St Peter's Park, 3 km from Greencastle,  as a working plant. Unbelievably they will continue to ignore the discharge of raw untreated sewage in Greencastle at the back of the local Post Office and on the edge of the shore path. Again there was no genuine reason for not including Greencastle in this plan.

7.  Irish Water state: “Todayʼs meetings provided us with a great opportunity to hear and discuss in an open environment the concerns of the Community for Clean Estuary group. We were delighted to be able to clarify some misinformation that had been circulating"

This statement is a shameful attempt at pretense. They clarified very little as my comments above demonstrate and did not acknowledge the findings of widespread pollution contained in their own map. Misinformation indeed has been circulating from day one but it has not come from CFCE. The deception continues to the present day going by the content of Irish Water’s statements. In my opinion a major case of misinformation is Irish Water’s refusal to acknowledge the decision by the European Commission in 2013 when it found in favour of the CFCE and against  the Irish Government who were found guilty of not applying proper environmental legislation. Irish Water continues to downplay this European verdict as being trivial yet it caused the authorities to abandon a previous sewage treatment plan and has forced Irish Water to submit a new one..

The difference between listening and not listening to public opinion


The decision by local Co Derry Councils, Limavady and Causeway Coast, to take on board the good advice from the Loughs Agency and NIEA (Northern Ireland Environmental Authority) is complete opposite to Irish Water’s claim of listening to public opinion. There it was decided to change the plan and  discharge into the open sea beyond Magilligan Point thereby safeguarding the shellfish and beaches in the environs of Lough Foyle. This entailed the trenching of the discharge pipe across country a distance of 3.5 kilometers and an outfall pipe a distance of 280 metres into the open sea.

In contrast, Irish Water is not taking on board CFCE’s advice but instead insist on trenching their proposed discharge pipe through a sea-grass bed. This bed was identified by Karin Dubsky as both precious and rare. The pipe will also disrupt a local native oyster bed. Irish Water are also proposing to shorten the length of the outfall pipe by 100 meters, from 300m to 200m.

It seems, Irish Water will listen to no one as they plough on with a quick fix to try and avert the Irish Government's day of reckoning in the European Court of Justice where it could face being levied with massive daily fines for neglecting their responsibilities.

Irish Water ignores elephant in the room
Irish Water is playing down the thorny question of lawful ownership of Lough Foyle. CFCE take no pleasure in stating that there is indisputable proof that the sea-bed of Lough Foyle belongs to the Crown Estates. If this is the case then it could be that the required ground for the proposed discharge pipe is not available as Irish Water would have you believe. Any claim of ownership on a planning application that turns out to be false could doom the project to failure in the end.

CFCE recognises the great need for sewage services in the area but we have always stated it must be  "The right plant in the right place". We have to protect one of our most important community asset and avoid a potential environmental disaster.

Generations to come will never believe or accept that we allowed Irish Water to destroy our beaches, bathing waters, shore path and the unique marine ecosystem of this part of Lough Foyle.