Council fined for ‘gross contamination’ of Vartry
DISTRICT COURT LOCAL AUTHORITY ACCEPTS RESPONSIBILITY
WICKLOW County Council was fined €500 after they were convicted of polluting the River Vartry at Ashford last May.
At Wicklow District Court last week Wicklow County Council pleaded guilty to the charge and Brian Beckett with the Eastern Regional Fishery Board said that after receiving a call from a member of the public about ‘grossly polluted material’ flowing into the River Vartry he visited the area.
He arrived on site at 5 p.m. on May 5, 2008, an hour after the call, and found ‘gross contamination of the River Vartry’ upstream of the waste water treatment plant. He followed the discharge and found a large volume of contaminants leaving the plant and flowing into the river. He took several samples and contacted Veolia Water who operated the plant on behalf of Wicklow County Council.
Veolia Water was unsure how the matter, which was partially treated sewage effluent, had gotten into the river.
‘Who’s fault is this’ asked Judge Murrough Connellan. ‘Is it the Government for not providing enough money or the County Council for not providing enough treatment centres?’
Mr. Beckett said the treatment plant was operating at 160 per cent capacity on the day in question.
Acting for Wicklow County Council Mr. Munnelly said a new state of the art plant had been built and was waiting commissioning. However, he said it would not be up and running until September.
Mr. Munnelly said that in times of very high capacity at the plant a pumping system should be activated to pump the extra effluent to prevent a sludge blanket forming in the tanks. However, this had occurred during a Bank Holiday weekend and the system wasn’t activated but he admitted that the problem could have been avoided.
He said the matter was sorted out shortly after it was brought to the attention of Veolia Water.
Mr. Beckett said that as a result of the incident sludge had blanketed the river bed until the next flood and said there were spawning beds in the area but that it wasn’t spawning season.
Mr. Munnelly said that the control of the facility lay with Veolia and the County Council couldn’t deal with the pollution but said they were taking responsibility for the matter as they had contracted the operation out to Veolia.
‘This is the second time the County Council is taking responsibility for a contractor,’ said Judge Connellan fining Wicklow County Council €500 plus costs of €3,908.62.
‘It seems relatively easy to avoid this type of situation’, he said saying he was delighted to see that no spawning beds were damaged.