“Some progress has been made on water quality but there is room for serious improvement by some councils,” according to Irish Farmers Association (IFA) following the publication of a new league table outlining local authorities’ performance on water quality protection around the coasts of Ireland.
A league table of the performance of coastal county councils whose responsibility it is to defend and improve water quality in seafood production areas was published recently by IFA’s Aquaculture section, which represents all Irish sea farming, fish and shellfish farmers. Counties Clare and Mayo switch places in 2013 to put the Banner County marginally ahead in performance this year.
According to IFA Aquaculture spokesman, Richie Flynn: “Our members depend on top-quality waters to produce the best seafood for home and export consumption,” said Flynn. “Bays and inlets, particularly for sensitive shellfish growing areas, are monitored monthly for contaminants from urban and domestic waste to ensure the highest food safety standards.
“This is a legal requirement and is in addition to the European Directive on Shellfish Waters Quality, which obliges local authorities to protect waters from pollution. Since IFA took the Government to the European Court of Justice for failing to recognise its responsibilities under this Directive, very important progress has been made in education, surveying, treatment and better awareness of the link between water quality and food safety. However, as our contacts with councils and the league tables now published show, there remains much to be done.”
The IFA man continued: “Our customers, 80 per cent of whom are in export markets, must have utmost confidence in water quality and the management systems around it. A very strong system of classification of water bodies is in place, using data gathered by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and analysed by the Food Safety Authority, the Marine Institute, the Health Service Executive, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and IFA Aquaculture annually to set classification standards in 133 different bays.
“The biggest challenges we face are discharges from old or redundant waste water treatment plants, inadequate treatment coupled with inappropriate developments in towns and villages around the coast during the boom years which have added to a very complex network of potential point source pollution risks that must be monitored. The role of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Environmental Enforcement in licensing and regulating wastewater discharges is extremely important in ensuring that they comply with the Shellfish Waters Directive.
IFA Aquaculture explained in writing earlier this year to each coastal county council, where seafood was farmed that the organisation wanted to ensure full consumer and industry confidence and remained concerned at the impact on its members of uncontrolled, badly planned or poorly monitored wastewater treatment sites.
The letter, written in February, stated: “We are well aware of pressure on budgets for infrastructural development, but improved monitoring and enforcement is still a necessary and legal requirement. We would appreciate if you could inform IFA Aquaculture of the actions your authority is taking to improve the situation in your area, including sanitary surveys, identification of all septic tank outfalls which may impact on water quality, monitoring of storm water and sewage outfalls from towns and villages around the coastline and plans in place to address falling water quality where relevant.”
According to the IFA Aquaculture division, detailed responses were received from Clare, Wexford, Cork and Galway local authorities, acknowledgements were received from Mayo and Louth Councils. It noted no additional information or acknowledgement was received from Donegal, Sligo, Limerick, Kerry or Waterford. “Members will be raising this failure to engage with the seafood sector with local representatives,” it noted.
Click here for details: IFA Aquaculture Water Quality League Table 2013