The EPA’s role as environmental regulator of Irish Water

Motion to Clare County Council June 2021

Published on June 25, 2021


“That Clare Co Co would request a report from the EPA, to be issued with 14 days, detailing the steps they have taken so far in holding Irish Water to account on the lack of progress in developing a waste water treatment plant for Kilkee 

  1. to adequately protect the Kilkee Reefs SAC 
  2. to adequately protect bathing water quality in Kilkee Beach
  3. to protect the public who use the beach in Kilkee 

Irish Water (IW)is the entity responsible for the collection, treatment and discharge of urban waste water in Ireland.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is there “… to protect the people and the environment from harmful effects of radiation and pollution” and it is also the environmental regulator of Irish Water[i], basically its there to make sure IW actually does its job,

The following is  a quote taken directly from the EPA website:

In 2021 untreated waste water (raw sewage) from the equivalent of 75,000 people still flows into the environment every day from 34 towns and villages.

Irish Water had planned to eliminate discharges of raw sewage from 29 of these 34 areas by the end of 2021. Irish Water will not meet this plan and it now expects to connect just one of these areas to treatment in 2021”[ii].

I’m not sure if I have come across such a blatent case of self described inadaquacy of two agencies to deliver on their basic legal responsibilities…


The European Communities (Environmental Liability) Regulations 2008  establish a framework of environmental liability based on the ‘polluter-pays’ principle, making operators liable for that which has significant adverse effects on things such as water status under the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EU and to protected species and natural habitats

The Regulations require the EPA as competent authority to direct operators to take measures (preventative or remedial) where environmental damage either has or might occur.  It is an offence if an operator fails to comply with any such direction and as such is liable to prosecution.


Prosecution is an important part of environmental law enforcement, and some might argue, the stick is a far more effective tool here than the carrot… so lets take a quick look through the EPA website for their record in prosections[iii]


4 prosecutions, none for IW despite 2 discharges into the sea in Kilkee that resulted in beach closures and risk of harmto public health that year


6 prosecutions, 3 of which were IW, one of those was for teh Abbeydorney Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP)  for a discharge in 2017 the fine for which was €2,000……but again still no prosecution for Kilkee despite one discharge to the beach


3 prosecutions so far… for events that took place up to Sep 2019, so even allowing for the lag between events and summons, the two pollution events that we know took place at Kilkee in 2019 before Sept, don’t look like being prosecuted…..

So I’d like to ask what exactly does one have to do to get prosecuted for failure to comply…because its very obvious that allowing a repeated systems breakdown that results in untreated sewage flowing on to a public bathing area in Kilkee isn’t a serious enough reason for the EPA to take it to court

I have an email from IW in 2017 stating Kilkee would be completed in 2021, Appendix C of the EPA report “Urban Waste Water Treatment 2019’[iv] has information supplied to them by IW in September 2020 stating Kilkee would be treated by 2023, an update in the management report of October 2020 states completion by 2024, the update in this months management report states 2025.

We are not that hard to please in Kilkee, but community who live, work, or visit the town would really like to get some clarity around what the EPA have been doing with regards to holding IW to account for their repeated failure to deliver on the waste water treatment plant and the lack of action regarding waste water discharges to the beach, a protected area, that have occurred on their watch.






Website by Artvaark Design