Open Questions on water quality

Note: List of unknowns, based on first four month of, in no particular order, and not comprehensive. As a ‘shopping’ list for water quality, this Q&A will be updated over time as PQs, FOIs and AIEs submitted, or as information is located from public sources

IrishWater audit reports on treatment plants, even following incidents at Ballymore Eustace and Gorey are not routinely published. EPA plant inspection reports are good but would be useful to have publication of both.  What is the status of chlorine alarms in relation to high chlorine levels, and plant auto/manual shutdowns?  Where EPA are critical of IrishWater, what does this mean in practice?  EPA reports are generally published annually in arrears, which means situation at particular plants can have changed

The Irish Pearl Mussel Project is a Dept of Agriculture agricultural payments scheme, which does not address (a) catchments outside the 8 Project catchments (20% of Pearl Mussel populations are not covered), and (b) does not address non-agricultural threats to Pearl Mussel populations. what measures are planned or currently in place to address both shortcomings? where water bodies fail to meet relevant water quality objectives for Pearl Mussel population eg Mountain, Carlow, what happens? Final Report requested on EU LIFE Project

Hard engineering approaches to OPW flood relief schemes are apparent in most if not all tenders published. what is less apparent are any national and local approaches to natural water retention (‘slow the flow’ measures). are there any examples of OPW tenders that address non hard engineering solutions ? eg hinged willow to stabilise banks and improve habitat, weir removal, wetland/bog restoration to retain water, etc? With a large number of projects moving forward, will they all be concrete based schemes, using pipes, embankments and culverts upstream of many towns.  CFRAM has identified a number of rivers for natural water retention measures (NWRM), eg Ara in Tipperary. Have any or all of these measures proceeded to tender?

Where potential for ‘quick wins’ are identified by EPA, local authorities, and LAWPRO where are these quick wins documented?  The LAWPRO process and documentation publication schedule is unclear, why is there a delay of up to two years on Desk Study publication? Are followup reports on stream walks published/circulated? How are handovers to ASSAP staff from LAWPRO staff reports, and improvements fed back? How are agri related enforcement actions progressed, as Teagasc/LAWPRO aren’t enforcement agencies?  Have requested update from LAWPRO, with a followup AIE on SOP documentation / sample documentation.

Is there a list of TraC water nitrate reduction areas?

Where deteriorated water bodies are noted, where are they documented, is there a single list/database? And do they each have a specific plan to address their deteriorated status?

Where a water body does not meet objectives for drinking water, what happens? eg MCPA in Lingaun, Tipperary

Why is there not a single body with responsibility for drinking water source protection ?  Currently Local Authorities, Irish Water, EPA, LAWPRO and ASSAP all have shared/joint responsibility – it is difficult to follow issues across multiple agencies

Is there a list of water bodies (eg Doo Lough, Clare or abstraction from Suck, Galway, Lough Rinn, Leitrim, Lough Eske, Donegal) that are failing to meet protected area objectives for MCPA ?

Where cattle access points are noted (eg 80 cattle access points identified in Boycetown River, Meath), are these points mapped and is there a funded programme available to support farmers with additional fencing requirements? Where fencing programmes are in place, what resources are in place to monitor their success ?  Cattle access to rivers/lakes appears in many reports, but there does not appear to be a working enforcement regime

Is there a plan to address catchments with a high number of derogation farms? eg Clodiagh, Waterford.  Submitted ODD request on derogation farms by townland, to identify high density/high nitrates areas.

Is there a current programme to address sheep dip in water (eg previously an issue in Donegal) – is it still an issue ?

What is the approach to nutrient release from lake sediment (eg Carrigdrohid, Cork), and how many lakes are impacted ?

Where long term risks are identified (eg five of six water bodies are At Risk in Athboy, Meath), is there a written catchment specific plan underway to address these challenges ?

Where LAWPRO actions are specified to ‘build on work completed by local authorities‘ eg Cavan, Meath, Kildare, where are these works documented, and what specific actions can be taken subsequently where the local authority works are complete? is there a published schedule of all local authority works with a potential positive impact on water quality? How do LAWPRO handover to local authorities in relation to local authority projects?

Where there are Irish Water and/or Group Water abstraction schemes in high risk catchments is there a written plan developed in conjunction with the abstraction bodies ?  Where abstraction becomes challenging, in the case of deteriorated water bodies, is there a contingency plan in place ? (eg Nadreegeel, Cavan).  Check GSI work on Irish Water abstraction issues on the east coast

Is there a publicly available listing of catchments under pressure from abstraction?  Irish Water abstraction points are redacted, Group Water Scheme abstraction points are published.

Is there a publicly available listing of catchments under pressure from BOTH abstraction AND pollution? (where pollution is putting additional pressure on the treatment of water abstracted, and/or the abstraction activities concentrate the pollution)

Are there particular issues with drinking water abstraction in specific rivers (eg Rathvilly from Slaney) ?  Where there are projects to examine the impact of abstraction (eg Finow, Kerry), where are the results of such studies published ?

Where there are desk studies into abstraction regimes on particular catchments, where are these published ? (eg Big River, Louth).  LAWPRO have published approx 12 catchment reports, but generally these desktop reports do not deal with abstraction in any detail.  Unclear if LAWPRO have access to EPA water abstraction data, which is not that detailed and often includes estimates rather than actual abstraction.  This may change with the new Water Abstraction Bill. 

Is there a listing of Bord na Mona water quality/conservation projects ? eg potential improvements from rewetting at Boora, Offaly. is there a published listing of bogs currently being drained (eg for windfarms or other reasons), where drainage activities are impacting on water quality (eg Mid Shannon).  AIEs with OIC, as BnM are circumventing AIE disclosure by stating drainage data is within close held companies, that are not subject to AIE.  Awaiting High Court decision in BnM OIC case.

What plans are in place or available to address spikes in ammonia from peat? eg Blackwater (Longwood), Kildare/Meath. is there a comprehensive list of catchments where ammonia from peat is a risk factor, if commercial peat extraction has not ceased, is this only a historic issue, or is ‘domestic’ peat extraction still a pressure on local waters?  How long after rewetting does it take for a watercourse to recover?

Is there a published listing of Coillte water quality/conservation projects? are there any non Coillte riparian woodland schemes currently funded in Ireland ?  Recent AIE suggests Coillte do have some water monitoring data, but unclear if this is comprehensive, or shared with Forest Service and/or other agencies

Where LAWPRO suggest there are opportunities to ‘build on improvement works at WWTPs‘ what does this mean in practice, where the works are essentially complete ? eg Oldcastle WWTP, Meath. Portarlington WWTP, Freshford WWTP etc and is there a schedule of all WWTP improvement works ? how are unlicensed discharges from pumping stations (eg Moate and Ballynagaul) currently logged and where are these logs published ?  EPA have taken a couple of court actions against Irish Water for unlicensed discharges.

Irish Water are to maintain national waste water capacity registers to ensure sufficient capacity in waste water networks to allow for balanced regional development in line with the National Planning Framework. Where are these registers published ?

What research has been done on the national and catchment level impact of septic tanks ?  There is one EPA research report, and some data on some local authority inspection/registration regimes, but what are the Dept policies / objectives.

Where the underlying groundwater is at risk, eg Derravaragh, Westmeath, is there a specific course of action outlined, and where is this documented ? Where groundwater abstraction is failing for nitrates eg Erkina, Durrow, Laois, what interim measures can be put in place to protect drinking water supply?  Barndarrig, Wicklow plant had nitrate alarm added following unexplained high levels (thought to be from slurry), but unclear which plants have nitrate alarms.

What is the current impact of historic and existing landfill sites on water quality? is there a list of catchments currently under pressure from landfill (open/historic)?  Which sites are the major concerns?

Is there a list of all barriers/weirs under consideration for removal to improve fish movement eg weirs preventing salmon movement on Dodder?

Where longer term, multi year projects are underway (eg Ringsend), what interim plans are in place to mitigate current pollution ?

What are the current issues and measures related to quarries and extractive industry?  Is there a list of catchments impacted by named quarries, with their locations, water abstraction data, and discharge licences (if applicable)?  AIE submitted to Fingal CoCo where there are multiple enforcement issues on multiple quarries

What is the impact of wind farms on water quality? and which catchments are impacted ? (eg Keel / Foherish, Cork or Cashia, Galway).  Plus the impact of developing wind farms on peatlands, and smaller issue of developing solar farms on peatland.

Where rivers discharge into designated bathing areas (eg Rogerstown Estuary, Donabate and Portrane) what specific measures are in place to protect and monitor bathing waters, eg upstream sewer improvements?

Where LAWPRO note ‘urban diffuse pressures,’ what does this mean in practical terms ? do all urban areas come under this heading ? if not is there a specific list of catchments impacted ? and another list of catchments in urban areas that do not have ‘urban diffuse pressures’ but instead have particular known addressable threats ?

Is there a published list of catchments under particular pressure from leaking sewers?

Is there a list of catchments under pressure from infrastructure development and construction? eg roadworks near Three Mile Water Wicklow, large housing developments near Vartry Wicklow?

LAWPRO measures include a large number of pilot projects across a wide range of schemes. Are these pilots documented and monitored within any particular framework, and by any single body? Are the funding details for each pilot project and the results in the public domain ?

Where ‘Greenways’ are planned alongside rivers/lakes, is there an appropriate environmental assessment / screening of the impact of these projects (also known as Blueways)?

Which local authorities have a Biodiversity Officer, and where are their contacts ?

When biodiversity audits are completed, eg by local authorities, where are they published ? is there a general requirement for biodiversity audits in relation to catchments? or are they limited to species audits, eg Pearl Mussel audit every six years

What national or regional programmes are currently in place to treat, eradicate and dispose of Invasive Alien Species, and where are the details on funding and progress to date?

Is there a database of marine areas that are currently failing to meet Protected Area objectives for shellfish (eg Bannow Bay, Wexford) ?

Where IFI are planning or have current instream works, where are these works published ?

Are there any current or planned projects to reintroduce Artic Char (eg Lough Dan, Wicklow, or Inchiquin, Clare) ?