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Pollution of seas and inland waterways has become a key issue in the British general election campaign.

A poll published this weekend shows 83 per cent of British adults support penalising water companies caught illegally discharging sewage and blocking bonuses to their executives.

The poll by BMG on behalf of “i” newspaper highlights the level of public anger over the state of rivers in Britain.

Only four per cent polled said they would be opposed to such a move.

The newspaper has initiated a campaign with five pledges to rescue rivers including cutting sewage spills and create more clean locations for bathing.

The Liberal Democrats became the first political party to support the campaign.

Read more in “i” newspaper here

Published in Marine Wildlife

Belfast Live reports that an eagerly awaited action plan for Lough Neagh is to go before the Northern Ireland Executive in Stormont in the coming days.

It follows last week’s questioning of DAERA Minister Andrew Muir by his own department’s oversight committee, where he said he has asked officials “to commence work to reverse” a law change that lowered penalties for farmers found to be repeat pollution offenders.

Pollution from agricultural runoff has been pinpointed as one of the major contributing factors in widespread blue-green algae blooms that have been devastating for Lough Neagh in recent years.

In February, one MLA described the situation as an “ecological catastrophe”, as previously reported on

Figures for 2023 in a recently published DAERA report show a near doubling of serious water pollution incidents in Northern Ireland as a whole — illustrative of the region’s “dire situation”, as Friends of the Earth NI director James Orr tells the Belfast Telegraph.

The Lough Neagh Partnership, meanwhile, says ‘nutrient overload’ from thousands of farms pouring into Lough Neagh will continue to spark pollution incidents unless major action is taken.

Belfast Live has more on the story HERE.

Published in Environment

The Dublin Urban Rivers LIFE (DURL) project, a joint venture between South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils, has prevented roughly 13 million litres of polluted wastewater from entering Dublin rivers annually by using Esri Ireland’s digital mapping system. The project aims to improve water quality by finding and removing household appliances that are expelling polluted water into rivers in two catchment areas. Esri’s ArcGIS system has assessed over 8,300 homes to date and identified over 1,000 misconnected appliances. 

Misconnections tend to occur when homes are renovated or extended, and new appliances are installed. Some washing machines, dishwashers, sinks, and toilets can be mistakenly connected to the rainwater or stormwater drainage pipe instead of the sewage pipe, resulting in polluted water being discharged into local rivers and streams. 

DURL’s field-based teams use ArcGIS Field Maps to view maps of the surface water drainage network on their mobile devices. Using this app, they lift manholes in residential areas, record signs of pollution in stormwater drains, and upload their findings directly to a central dashboard.

The project team has also developed a “Lite” version of the ArcGIS solution that can be used by other urban councils across Ireland and Europe as the basis for their own water quality improvement processes. 

Dermot O’Kane, Head of Sales, Esri Ireland, said: “This project is making a huge difference to the water quality and aquatic biodiversity in our Dublin rivers, making it an incredibly important project to work on. This technology is an efficient, digital process for inspecting suspected pollution which is easy to use and resulting in both cost and time savings for these county councils. We designed this solution with the future in mind, and we’re excited to see the technology being used elsewhere to improve the water quality for more rivers and waterways across Ireland and Europe.”

Briana Shiels, Project GIS Officer, Dublin Urban Rivers LIFE, said: “The driver for the project is always the quality of the rivers. ArcGIS enables us to find as many houses as possible with misconnected appliances, as efficiently as possible, to help Dublin’s rivers reach a good standard of water quality. Project information is transparent to everyone working on the project, whether in the field or in the office.”

Lorraine Beirne, Project Co-ordinator, Dublin Urban Rivers LIFE, said: “On average, 8% of domestic properties in Dublin have a misconnection and the DURL Project has identified a misconnection rate of greater than 30% in some housing estates as we now have a better system to pinpoint these properties and take action far more efficiently. With ArcGIS, we have built a replicable, standard solution with products that most local authorities in Ireland know and use already.”

Published in Inland Waterways

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue was joined by Ministers of State Pippa Hackett and Malcolm Noonan on the shores of Lough Ennell on Thursday (7 March) to officially launch the €60 million Water EIP ‘Farming for Water’ project aimed at improving water quality at local, catchment and national levels.

The project is a collaborative approach between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, working in partnership with the agri-food industry to improve water quality.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will support the project through the provision of funding of €50 million for participating farmers, co-funded by the National Exchequer and the EU, with the objective of involving 15,000 farmers in priority areas nationally. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will provide the administrative support for the project to the value of €10 million.

Through this European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) project, an operational group has been established by the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), in partnership with Teagasc, Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) and Bord Bia, and with the support of other stakeholders, to work in partnership with farmers in the implementation of a number of targeted actions at farm level to improve water quality.

Minister McConalogue said: “This government wants to improve water quality and also wants to ensure Ireland and Irish farmers secure a nitrates derogation from 2026. Today’s investment of €60 million is proof of the Government’s commitment to support farmers in their efforts to achieve those dual aims.

“The future of our farms, and the families on those farms, are largely dependent on successful water quality outcomes and I am absolutely confident farmers will not be found wanting in delivering those outcomes. The success of this EIP will be a source of inspiration, encouraging more leadership, more action and more engagement with water initiatives across all farm types and farm sizes.

“This project is a key component in our ongoing efforts to improve water quality and the sustainability of our agricultural practices at a national level, but it is just one element. It is part of a suite of measures to bolster those efforts. This includes a national multi-actor Water Quality Advisory Campaign, led by Teagasc as well as increased compliance and enforcement activity across my own Department and the Local Authorities.

Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett said: “As minister with responsibility for both EIPs and biodiversity, I am delighted to support this flagship EIP, which demonstrates this Government’s commitment to maintaining and improving water quality in Ireland.

“This is our largest EIP to date, both in terms of funding and in its ambition in relation to the role that agriculture can play in improving water quality and, by extension, the benefits for nature and biodiversity that will accrue as a result.”

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan said: “Our rivers, lakes, estuaries and bays are at the heart of what we value about Ireland’s environment. Improving the quality of their waters is vital — not just for nature and wildlife, but also for public health and wellbeing — and it’s by working together that we will yield the greatest results.

“This unique and innovative collaboration brings the farming community, the food processing industries, LAWPRO, ASSAP and the two government departments together with a single aim. It is testament to the commitment of Government departments and the agricultural sector in taking ownership of their role in improving water quality.”

Anthony Coleman, director of LAWPRO, representing the Operational Group said: “This Water EIP represents a significant opportunity for us to engage and collaborate with the agricultural sector to deliver improvements in water quality throughout the country. We will be working hand-in-hand with farmers to introduce more nature-based solutions as well as supporting community organisations to work on delivery of water quality measures that will benefit our environment, economy and society.

“This water stewardship initiative follows catchment science principles and focuses on multiple benefits, including climate and biodiversity. I am delighted that this project is now underway and we have a team in place who will work in conjunction with our partners Teagasc, ASSAP, Dairy Industry Ireland and other stakeholders.”

Published in Environment

Three Sinn Féin MLAs have brought a motion to the newly restored Stormont Assembly for action to save Lough Neagh from its pollution crisis, as The Irish Times reports.

MLA for North Antrim, Philip McGuigan described the situation on the lough as an “ecological catastrophe”.

“The work of saving Lough Neagh and repairing the damage to its ecology and environment and that of its tributaries and surrounding land must be a top priority for the Executive in the time ahead,” he told the Assembly on Tuesday (13 February).

The motion comes on the heels of last summer’s spate of toxic blue-green algae blooms, which caused the deaths of numerous pets and was blamed for the collapse of the lough’s renowned native eel fishery.

Untreated wastewater and agricultural run-off — not to mention climate change, invasive species such as the zebra mussel, and political inaction due to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive — have been singled out as reasons behind the current crisis.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has welcomed the outcome of a case it brought against Uisce Éireann involving sewage pollution of the Cavan town river.

A fine of €2,000, plus costs and expenses of €3,197, were imposed at a hearing on the matter at Cavan District Court on Friday 1 December.

It comes after IFI had previously secured prosecution in October against the State water utility for pollution of the Ballinagh River in Co Cavan which killed 160 fish.

The court heard that in the wake of ongoing issues at the Uisce Éireann wastewater treatment plant at Ballinagh, senior IFI fisheries environmental officer Ailish Keane had taken samples for analysis following the pollution event in Cavan town on 3 February this year.

These test samples, taken downstream from the plant, showed high levels of pollutants, with large amounts of sewage fungus — bacteria, fungus and algae that reduce oxygen levels — visible on the bed of the river.

Commenting on the verdict, Dr Milton Matthews, director of IFI’s North-Western River Basin District said: “We welcome the outcome in this case. The presence of sewage fungus in the river is indicative of chronic organic pollution of the Cavan town river at this location, rather than an isolated incident — with significant impact on fish, invertebrates and all aquatic life in the river.

“There were significant breaches of the licence emission limits for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — oxygen required to break down organic matter in the water — and high ammonia levels.

“Sample results taken at the location indicated that ammonia levels were over 115 times higher than permitted discharge limits, and eight times higher than permissible for BOD limits as stipulated for this treatment plant.”

The conviction was secured under Section 171 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 — legislation regarding protection of fishing waters from harmful pollutants.

Members of the public are encouraged to report instances of water pollution, illegal fishing, habitat destruction or fish kills to IFI’s confidential number at 0818 34 74 24.

Published in Angling

The Rivers Trust supports the findings of new report that rings alarm bells about the critical state of water quality management in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Surfers Against Sewage Water Quality Report for 2023 says that in Northern Ireland, there is a lack of the discharge of raw sewage into waters at popular beaches and inland waterways bathing sites — and both anecdotal reports and water quality data suggest the problem is significant.

Mark Horton, all-Ireland director of The Rivers Trust said the report “underscores longstanding environmental concerns we continually raise. The evidence of the effects of sewage and pollution is there and clear.

“The severe algal bloom in Lough Neagh is a stark illustration of the consequences of poor environmental stewardship in Northern Ireland.”

NI’s 2,398 operational sewage overflows — and the sparse data on their performance — emphasise an urgent need for investment in increased monitoring and more transparency so the public can make informed decisions and remedial actions can be taken, The Rivers Trust says.

Horton added: “The management of sewage in Northern Ireland shows a critical need for investment and modernisation. With the absence of a functioning Stormont Executive and no independent environment agency, decisive actions to protect and restore water quality are practically impossible.

“This inaction is unacceptable. Water users in Northern Ireland deserve the same level of safety and information as those elsewhere. Ultimately, we need proper resourcing of Northern Ireland Water to enable it to put in place real-time sewage alerts, so swimmers, surfers and anglers can protect themselves from direct discharges of untreated sewage.”

Horton acknowledged NI water’s plans to deploy monitoring systems by 2024 as “a positive step”, but cautioned that “the lack of clarity on how data will be dissemination and public accessibility to the data remains a concern”.

“Real-time, accessible water quality information isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity for the health and safety of our communities and ecosystems,” he said.

Warning signage is being removed from locations around Lough Neagh following this past summer’s blooms of toxic blue-green algae.

But as BBC News reports, it could be years before the ecological impact on the lough is fully understood.

Ulster Angling Federation chair Gary Houston claimed that the collapse of the Lough Neagh fly, attributed to the cyanobacteria blooms, has had a knock-on effect on all other species in the area — most notably its native trout and eels.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) said the fly species was not previously monitored as it was “commonplace and not a protected feature” but confirmed they are “a key trophic (food) component of the Lough Neagh ecosystem”.

“We’ve been damaging the ecosystem in Lough Neagh now for 60 years or so and we’ve been doing it knowingly for 50 years, but we’ve got away without the acute impacts [until now],” said Dr Adam Mellor of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institution (AFBI).

All parties acknowledge that the current crisis is the result of multiple factors over decades — including climate change, changes in agriculture and the presence of invasive species — and some believe it could take just as long to turn it around.

BBC News has much more on the story HERE.

New predictive technology being developed in Estonia could help prevent the spread of pollution from shipwrecks.

Estonia’s public broadcaster ERR News reports on the monitoring system created by marine scientists at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) that may forecast where fuel will spread in the water from a hazardous wreck site.

Estonia’s coastline on the Gulf of Finland, Gulf of Riga and Baltic Sea has a large number of decades-old shipwrecks which are increasingly prone to fuel leaks as they age.

So far the results are promising, with TalTech’s predictive computer models — using current and wave data from Estonian waters — matching real-world data collected from smart buoys placed at a number of coastal sites.

ERR News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science

More than half of Ireland’s bathing waters were affected by swimming bans this past summer, an investigation by Noteworthy has revealed.

While four in five coastal and inland bathing spots were classed as excellent in 2022, that statistic runs counter to a wave of swimming prohibitions at beaches and other areas around Ireland in recent years.

This is due to various problems with pollution caused by wastewater release and other factors, the report indicates.

And the issue is being exacerbated by climate change, as wetter conditions lead to overflow from treatment plants operating below EU standards, not to mention runoff from farmland and other surface waters.

Noteworthy has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Sea Swim
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