The lack of a sewage treatment plant in the west Mayo town and the delay in addressing the issue by both Irish Water and the EPA was raised at last week’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council.
Newport was not included in the Irish Water 2017-2021 investment plan, as it was not listed as a ‘no treatment’ agglomeration in EPA reports published in 2013 and 2014. However, after local pressure, a review was undertaken by Irish Water, and two separate sewage-discharge points from Newport into Clew Bay were deemed by Irish Water to have no treatment.
As a result, Newport has since been re-classified by the EPA as having no sewage treatment, and the town will now be included in Irish Water’s next capital investment submission to the commission for regulation of utilities which will consider all high-priority needs.
Irish Water stated that it is committed to providing treatment in Newport by the end of 2023.
‘Played a blinder’
Westport-based councillor Brendan Mulroy has criticised Irish Water’s commitment, saying the organisation had ‘played a blinder’, as the move means it avoids being brought to court by the EPA.
“They [Irish Water] put Newport into a capital programme that will completed in 2023. The date for that is December 31, 2023, which effectively means 2024. We [councillors] kept highlighting it, and the EPA and Irish Water eventually came on board, and the only reason Irish Water are not being taken to court on it is because they have given a [completion] date,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil councillor told the meeting that if an ordinary person was allowing raw sewage to flow into a river, they would not be given until 2024 to fix it.
“I ask my colleagues in the chamber for some support because this is not good enough for the people of Newport. I think we have to act and bring forward the treatment plant from 2024 to within a couple of years at the very least,” he said.
Cllr Mulroy also accused the EPA of contradicting themselves by claiming the water quality in Newport Bay was regarded as ‘high’ while acknowledging that raw sewage was going into the bay.
“How can you have a situation where the EPA takes water samples and they come back clear, yet at the end of [an] email they state … ‘raw sewerage flows into the bay’?
“There is a contradiction there. They are basically saying the people of Newport are going to be okay until 2024 … Previously they said there was no sewage going in, [and] they have had to backtrack on that and agree ‘Yes, it is going in’. Now they are saying [sewage] is going in [to the sea], but they are not going to deal with it because the water samples are clear,” he said, adding: “A six-year-old child would be able to tell you that raw sewage going into water is not clear.”