RAW sewage is being pumped daily into a scenic river which has been designated a 'special area of conservation'.
Independent tests show that the River Barrow contains a very high count of cryptosporidium - the same bug that has contaminated Galway's drinking water supply and left hundreds of people sick.
The untreated sewage, which contains used condoms, tampons, lumps of human excrement and shredded toilet paper, is being pumped into the river through two pipes in the heart of Portarlington, beside a park where children play.
The source of the sewage has been identified as a block of apartments and a number of houses and businesses in the town. These premises were incorrectly connected to the water surface system meaning untreated sewage was being channeled directly into the river.
Local anglers, angered at the number of fish kills along the river, began independent tests of the water three years ago. The tests, which are carried out fortnightly, show that the Barrow is a 'moderately polluted river' with a high level of cryptosporidium. Laois County Council has consistently rejected claims that it is behind the pollution but was forced yesterday to admit that untreated effluent is regularly pumped into the river because of "misconnections" in the sewage system.
Last night Kildare County Council stressed the town's drinking water is safe. It does not come from the Barrow but from the Poulaphoca Reservoir and wells at Hybla and Rathangan.