22nd September

Fluoride leak from treatment plant in 2007 not reported to the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that a serious water pollution incident in 2007 where fluoride leaking from a local authority treatment plant killing thousands of fish was not reported to it because the event happened prior to the implementation of key EU water legislation.

In written correspondence seen by Inshore Ireland, an EPA spokesman responds to three requests for information on this incident from environmental scientist Declan Waugh. 

 

The fluoride leak was not reported to the EPA as it predated both the European Communities (Environmental Liability) Regulations 2008, which came into force in 2009 and the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007 which came into force in 2007. There was no requirement for the local authority to report such incidents to the EPA prior to these Regulations.

The facts of the pollution incident are outlined in a report by The Kerryman newspaper on November 28, 2007, of a case heard before Dingle District Court in which Kerry County Council admitted that fluoride leaking from one of its water treatment plants had been responsible for killing some 2,000 fish including sea trout, brown trout and eels in the Mall River in Dingle on June 7 that year.

The case against Kerry County Council was taken by the South Western Regional Fisheries Board.

The newspaper states that investigations by Environmental Officer Patricia O’Connor had located an underground pipe coming from a waste treatment plant approximately 600 metres upstream of the fish kill at Ballinassig.

Ms O’Connor is reported saying that “the tank was open to the elements, and on testing its contents it had a pH reading of 1.4 which, she said would be ‘lethal’ to fish”.

Kerry County Council’s solicitor is reported saying that the fish kill had been caused by fluoride leaking from a pump, but that the fault had been rectified as soon as soon as it was brought to the council’s attention.

The case appears to have concluded with Kerry County Council paying €3,678 to the South Western Regional Fisheries Board to help with restocking the river with fish.

Further requests by Declan Waugh to the EPA to provide ‘specific details of any unauthorised accidental releases of fluoride that may have occurred from water treatment plants in Ireland in the past ten years’ received the following response from the agency:

The EPA has not been notified of any unauthorised accidental releases of fluoride from water treatment plants in Ireland since 2009 under the Environmental Liability Regulations (prior to this there was no requirement to notify the EPA) and has not detected any such incidents caused by fluoride during EPA audits of drinking water treatment plants since 2001.’

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