A heron on the Boyne. PHOTO: PAUL HAYES

Cllrs told Meath’s river quality is flowing in the wrong direction

Water quality in Meath and in particular in the river Boyne is “going in the wrong direction”, a councillor told the October meeting of Meath County Council.

Labour Party Cllr Elaine McGinty made the remarks during a discussion on the application by Dawn Meats to discharge treated abattoir waste water into the river Boyne. County council officials have granted planning permission to the company for this purpose.

Cllr McGinty said the application had been a catalyst for change in how the community valued and protected the river for future generations. She put forward a motion in June this year seeking clarity from the Minister for the Environment on who is responsible for issuing commercial waste water licences and what legislation should be given priority, given the State’s legal commitment to climate change and biodiversity protection.

“Getting that clarity has not been easy. However, perseverance has paid off and working with Ged Nash TD we finally have some answers. According to the Minister, both local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency each have a legal responsibility for the control of pollution through the regulation of emissions to the environment.”

She said the Minister had given the following information – an application for a waste water discharge licence, or a review of a licence, must satisfy legislative requirements largely set out in the European Union (Wastewater Discharge) Regulations 2020. The EPA produces its own guidance notes as necessary to assist licensees fulfil the requirements of its licensing processes. Trade discharges to water at licensable under the Local Government Water Pollution Act 1977 (as amended).

Cllr McGinty said: “We now have clarity from the Minister on the legislation. However, Ireland’s performance against European water framework standards is worrying. The EPA has acknowledged that the quality of water in many Irish rivers, lakes and estuaries is unacceptably poor. While there is an active plan on river basin management in place to help address these issues, we urgently need to resource, implement and effectively enforce the laws we have”.

Currently, there were no rivers in Co Meath classed as pristine or high standard and only 18 per cent were classified as good which was a fall from 45 per cent in 2007, she said. “We also know from date recently provided by the EPA that water levels in the river Boyne dropped by circa 20 per cent in July and August this year alone. In order to save the Boyne, Meath Co Council and the EPA need to look at their own data on the Boyne and effectively implement the legislation it has at its disposal”.