Tuesday 18 November 2008

Contract for waste water plant allowed odour levels 20 times those first agreed

THE CONTRACT to develop a waste water treatment plant at Ringsend, Dublin, allowed odour levels 20 times higher than those stipulated in the project's environmental impact statement (EIS), a report has found.

The independent report, by consultant Brendan Fehily, said the inclusion of the higher figure in the operations contract between Dublin City Council and construction and operations consortium ABA, "was either a serious error of judgment or a mistake".

Minister for the Environment John Gormley, who commissioned the report, said he noted a failure to adhere to EIS recommendations was a key element in the subsequent issues at the plant. "I would hope individuals or bodies can be held to account," he said.

Local Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton called on the Minister to ensure those responsible for the "fiasco" are held to account.

The Ringsend Waste Water Treatment Plant has been in operation since June 2003. It treats waste water from the entire Dublin region and has frequently operated above its capacity. Residents in Ringsend, Sandymount and Irishtown have complained of serious odour problems from the plant since its inception.

The report found that there were flaws in how the capacity for the Ringsend plant was calculated, with an underestimation of over 225,000 people, made up of tourists, commuters and commercial sector users.

The World Health Organisation gives 3.5 parts per billion (ppb) of hydrogen sulphide as the level at which no odour is detectable, the report said. And, though the EIS established an odour standard of 5 ppb at the site boundary, "inexplicably", the contract documents quoted a standard of 100 ppb at the site boundary.

Work to deal with the odour problem is being carried out at the plant and should be completed by the end of the month.

The report said the plant had a very positive effect on the water quality in Dublin Bay, but was unlikely to comply with the urban wastewater directive. The directive imposes stringent limits on discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous. It said measures needed to be put in place to de-nitrify the final effluent; phosphorus removal may also be required.

The report makes a series of recommendations, including an upgrading of the works and improvements in the monitoring and licensing of discharges from businesses in the Dublin area.

Mr Gormley said he particularly welcomed the nutrient removal recommendation. "This is something I called for as far back as 1993 during the early proposals for the facility," he said.

Ms Creighton said locals have endured the stench from the plant for years and that so far nobody has stood up and accepted responsibility for the plant's failure.

The Irish Times


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