EPA clas­si­fies over half of rivers as ‘less than good’

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Joyce Fe­gan

Al­most half of Ir­ish rivers have a ‘less than good’ eco­log­i­cal sta­tus.

And although a re­duc­tion in “se­ri­ously pol­luted” wa­ters has been achieved, there is a “con­tin­ued and un­wel­come de­cline” in the num­ber of pris­tine rivers.

Only 21 sites achieved the high­est EU qual­ity rat­ing from 2013 to 2015, com­pared to over 500 wa­ter sources in the late 1980s.

The dis­clo­sures are out­lined in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s (EPA) na­tional assess­ment of wa­ter qual­ity.

The assess­ment, which cov­ers the years from 2010 and 2015, shows 43% of mon­i­tored river wa­ter bodies had a less than good eco­log­i­cal sta­tus — which equates to 1,015 river wa­ter ‘bodies’.

Lakes, ground­wa­ter, coastal and tran­si­tional wa­ter bodies (estuaries) were as­sessed in the re­port, pub­lished to­day.

Only 24% of the sur­face area of mon­i­tored estuaries had a ‘high’ or ‘good’ sta­tus.

Fur­ther­more, “hun­dreds of wa­ter bodies” around the coun­try failed to meet qual­ity stan­dards. The assess­ment is show­ing a con­tin­ued re­duc­tion in the level of se­ri­ously pol­luted wa­ters.

Only six river wa­ter bodies were cat­e­gorised as ‘bad’ in 2010–2015 com­pared to 19 in the pe­riod 2007-2009.

Al­most half of Ir­ish rivers have a “less than good” eco­log­i­cal sta­tus.

And although a re­duc­tion in “se­ri­ously pol­luted” wa­ters has been achieved, there is, how­ever, a “con­tin­ued and un­wel­come de­cline” in the num­ber of pris­tine rivers.

Only 21 sites achieved the high­est EU qual­ity rat­ing from 2013 to 2015, com­pared to over 500 wa­ter sources in the late 1980s.

The dis­clo­sures are out­lined in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s (EPA) na­tional assess­ment of wa­ter qual­ity.

The assess­ment, which cov­ers the six-year pe­riod be­tween 2010 and 2015, shows that 43% of mon­i­tored river wa­ter bodies had a less than good eco­log­i­cal sta­tus — which equates to 1,015 river wa­ter ‘bodies’.

Lakes, ground­wa­ter, coastal and tran­si­tional wa­ter bodies (estuaries) were as­sessed in the re­port, pub­lished to­day.

Only 24% of the sur­face area of mon­i­tored estuaries had a ‘high’ or ‘good’ sta­tus.

Fur­ther­more, “hun­dreds of wa­ter bodies” around the coun­try failed to meet qual­ity stan­dards.

The assess­ment is show­ing a con­tin­ued re­duc­tion in the level of se­ri­ously pol­luted wa­ters.

Only six river wa­ter bodies were cat­e­gorised as ‘bad’ in 2010–2015 com­pared to 19 in the pe­riod 2007-2009.

Over­all, the re­port found na­tion­ally the qual­ity of wa­ter sources has re­mained rel­a­tively the same since the last assess­ment.

Ef­fec­tively, that was due to a can­celling-out ef­fect. While the “worst of the worst” were al­most elim­i­nated, many of the pris­tine sites have de­clined in qual­ity.

“While the na­tional pic­ture is rel­a­tively sta­ble, some wa­ter bodies have im­proved while oth­ers have de­te­ri­o­rated, which high­lights that not enough has been done to pre­vent de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of wa­ter qual­ity,” said Andy Fan­ning, pro­gramme manager for the ev­i­dence and assess­ment of­fice.

The assess­ment con­cluded that while there has been lit­tle over­all change in wa­ter qual­ity, there has been a fail­ure to meet the planned na­tional tar­get of 13% im­prove­ment in wa­ter sta­tus for the six-year pe­riod.

Matt Crowe, director of the EPA’s ev­i­dence and assess­ment of­fice, re­it­er­ated the im­prove­ments but said steps now need to be taken to ar­rest any fur­ther de­cline in wa­ter qual­ity.

“The good news is that we have al­most elim­i­nated the worst of the worst of pol­luted sites. The bad news is that the de­cline in our most pris­tine wa­ters, the best of the best, has con­tin­ued.

“We now need to put the nec­es­sary mea­sures and re­sources in place to ar­rest any fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of wa­ter sta­tus and to make nec­es­sary im­prove­ments,” said Dr Crowe.

“De­ci­sions about what to do and who should do it and pay for it need to be based on sci­en­tific ev­i­dence and re­quires con­struc­tive enEPA’s gage­ment and col­lab­o­ra­tion across a wide range of stake­hold­ers.

“By do­ing this, the right ac­tion can be taken in the right place by the right peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions,” he said.

This re­port is the first full six-year assess­ment of the sta­tus of Ir­ish wa­ters un­der the Wa­ter Frame­work Di­rec­tive which is a Euro­pean Union di­rec­tive which com­mits EU mem­ber states to achieve good qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive sta­tus of all wa­ter bodies by 2015.

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