SERIOUS errors in the estimated level of waste from commercial premises by Dublin City Council have been highlighted in a report on the operation of a sewage treatment plant in Dublin.
The report also found that odour levels allowed under the contract to operate the Ringsend plant were more than 20 times the standard specified in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted during the planning process.
Environment Minister John Gormley, who commissioned the report by independent consultant Brendan Fehily, said yesterday the failure to adhere to the EIA recommendations was a key element in the plant’s subsequent problems.
Mr Gormley estimated that it had cost Dublin City Council an extra €10 million to remedy such errors.
The facility, which has been in operation since 2003, has been blamed by residents in Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount, for regularly causing foul odours in the area, although it has been credited with a dramatic improvement in water quality in Dublin Bay.
Mr Gormley, a local TD, commissioned the report last June in order to establish the background to the odour problem and why the plant was frequently operating above its design capacity.
It concluded that the flow of sewage into the plant was underestimated by almost 190,000 people due to poor calculations about the amount of waste contributed by commercial premises such as shops, offices, pubs and restaurants.
The number of daily commuters to Dublin, as well as tourist numbers, were also underestimated.
The report established that the standard of permissible odour based on measurements of hydrogen sulphide (the smell of rotten eggs) in the contract documents was 20 times higher than the figure in its Environment Impact Statement.
“This was either a serious error of judgment or a mistake,” concluded Mr Fehily.
He noted that previous attempts to address the problems of odour since 2003 were inadequate and of a “fire brigade” nature.
“A significant number of odour problems were created by inadequate design and equipment failure,” he said.
However, the report also pointed out that the recommendations of a study commissioned by the council on the odour problems should be fully implemented by the end of this month.
Mr Fehily claimed such remedial work should ensure that future problems with odours will be “minor and few and far between”.
He also recommends significant improvements in the monitoring and licensing of discharges from businesses.
The report claims there is still work to be done to make the Ringsend plant compliant with an EU Urban Wastewater Directive as it is still discharging effluent with excessive level of nutrients into Dublin Bay.
Welcoming the report, Mr Gormley said its recommendations, if followed, “should ensure a high-quality and well-run wastewater system for the Dublin region”.
He has asked the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment to examine the background of the case.
Dublin City Council yesterday refused to comment on the report’s findings.