The much hated state utility Irish Water have once again found themselves in hot water recently after they were left with no choice to plead guilty for polluting a Co Louth stream.
The company whose future remains unclear were ordered to donate €2,000 to charity after they polluted a stream at Tinure in Co Louth when they failed to address a malfunction at a sewage treatment plant which led to the water turning grey. The utility avoided a criminal charge after they were prosecuted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to ensure sewage waste from a water treatment plant at Tinure in Co Louth did not cause pollution.
The company could have faced a criminal conviction and maximum fine of €5,000, but were spared the conviction after Judge O’Neil decided that the company co-operated noted there was no environmental damage caused or any fish killed from the discharge.
The court heard testimony from EPA inspector Dermot Burke who said he went to the treatment plant on June 4th last year, and verified that discharge from the facility went into a fast flowing stream which is a tributary of the White River. Mr Burke further explained that he saw a grey-coloured discharge going into the stream, along with sewage fungus in the water which is normally an indicator of pollution.
The court also heard that 50 metres downstream from the entry point, the water was still found to be grey. They were also told number of samples were taken and analysed to measure biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and ammonia levels in the water. Mr Burke explained high BOD means less oxygen for plant and water life. There should be no more than 1.5 mgs of BOD per litre in the water but on the day he took samples downstream of the discharge, the level was 10mgs per litre.
A high rate of ammonia can be poisonous to fish, he also said. There should be 0.065 mg per litre in the water but on the day he took samples there was was 2.4mgs of ammonia per litre, “36 times the concentration of what should be in water”.
However the defence counsel which was represented by Eoghan Cole claimed that an electrical fault had caused the two pumps at the planet to malfunction. The defence asked also asked the court to note that Irish Water has no prior criminal convictions and taxpayers would not be bearing the cost of the prosecution.
They suggested that imposing a fine would substantial and fair punishment for the company’s negligence, which Judge O’Neil agreed to, before he ordered the company to give €2,000 to the Merchant Quay Ireland which helps people affected by homelessness and drug abuse problems.