17th March

Image of caring for environment punctured by does of reality

Not for the first time, the mostly self-generated and false image that we see ourselves as people who care passionately about the environment has been punctured by a dose of reality.

Three items published in this issue of Inshore Ireland highlight that reality, and show us in a poor light when it comes to the way we interact with the water environment in particular.

First, the Environmental Protection Authority’s review of urban waste-water discharges is a snapshot in time of the attitude of many of our local authorities.

What leaps off the pages of this report is the slovenliness of management.

The simple and relatively cheap requirement of monitoring treated effluent discharges is not being carried out. There is no excuse for such carelessness, and any local authority guilty of not doing its statutory duty should be punished by heavy fine.

Elsewhere in this edition, Sinead O’Brien of the Sustainable Water Network rounds on the local authorities for what she found to be little attempt on their part to engage in constructive dialogue on the River Basin Management Plans of the Water Framework Directive.

Her view, which is sure to be rejected by the authorities, is that real debate was deliberately stifled by the use of a strategy that included hiding behind vague language and obfuscations.

Whether this is exaggeration or not, O’Brien’s piece highlights what amounts to be a deeper malaise in this country - a real difficulty in being able to exchange opposing views and to learn from each other in a civil way.

Finally, in his piece on Cryptosporidium, John Hearne confirms the original Nuacht TG4 story which, with the help of the Freedom of Information device, revealed that Galway City Council’s water sampling regime prior to March 2007 was not adequate for what was known to be a ‘high-risk’ water catchment. Weasel words from them in the meantime cannot hide that fact.

It is crucial to understand that without the FOI this information would never have been allowed to see the light of day.

The news however is that EPA has at last been given the power it needed to ensure that local authorities carry out their obligations to the letter. And it is crucial that they do – otherwise, the price that’s paid for tolerating a dirty environment will have to be paid by us all.

For the sake of our environment let’s hope that the EPA will act decisively.

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