It’s high time that local authorities and Irish Water addressed the illegal pumping of raw sewage into Irish rivers and streams, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

This would ensure that Ireland does not face fines following a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) earlier this year.

Responding to the EPA water quality report, which was published this morning, Tuesday, December 10, IFA president Joe Healy said:

“Ireland stands guilty before the ECJ on one water quality issue and that’s non-compliance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, which was introduced almost 20 years ago.

This has led to raw sewage with high phosphorous (P) and nitrogen (N) concentrations from the equivalent of 77,000 people being released into our waters every day.

Regarding farming’s contribution to a better rural environment, the president added:

“Over the past decade, farmers have spent over €2.5 billion bringing their farmyards up to the highest environmental standards.

“Also, over 40% of all farmers in Ireland take part in the Department of Agriculture’s Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS), which is over-subscribed and closed to new entrants.”

Healy added that all farmers produce to good agricultural and environmental conditions, while farmers throughout the country are also actively taking part in the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) operated by Teagasc and dairy co-ops.

The IFA noted that the introduction of the following measures will lead to better water quality in rural areas:
  • A national liming support scheme, to address soil fertility issues and ensure nutrients are taken up in soils;
  • Increased supports for low-emissions slurry spreading equipment, to reduce the risk of nutrient run-off; and
  • The re-opening of the GLAS programme and an increase in annual payments to €10,000.

“Ireland’s water quality is amongst the best in Europe – this is something to be proud of,” the president said.

“However, images of raw sewage going into our rivers and streams take from this.

“Farmers will continue to take part in schemes such as GLAS and voluntary schemes such as the ASSAP programme. After all, farmers are the custodians of the rural environment,” Healy concluded.