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Water Quality

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 20 June 2018

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Questions (34)

Eoin Ó Broin


34. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the response to the European Court of Justice legal action regarding the breaches of the urban wastewater treatment directive; the status of ongoing discussions with the European Commission and the Council on the revised drinking water directive; and his views on the possibility of additional European Court of Justice action for breaches of the existing drinking water directive. [26819/18]

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Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Housing)

The Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, as well as officials from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Environmental Protection Agency, have voiced concerns about the revised drinking water directive the European Commission is considering. Will the Minister update us on his engagement on the matter? Has he been discussing it with the European Commission and the Council? Has there been any shift in the position of the European Commission on the matter?

The European Commission has referred a complaint against Ireland to the Court of Justice of the European Union in relation to compliance with the urban wastewater treatment directive.  The case relates to 40 urban areas which the Commission believes to be non-compliant.  The Chief State Solicitor's office formally lodged Ireland's defence with the Court of Justice of the European Union in October 2017 and the written procedure on the case closed in February.  The decision of the court is awaited. 

Funding under the national development plan and in line with the objectives of the river basin management plan for the period 2018 to 2021 has been designed to tackle the impact of historical under-investment in wastewater treatment facilities.  The river basin management plan which I launched in April sets out €1.7 billion worth of investment by Irish Water in 255 urban wastewater projects which are proposed to achieve compliance with the urban wastewater treatment directive and other measures to prevent deterioration and support targeted water quality improvements.

In relation to the revised drinking water directive, the Commission has presented its proposal and the working party on the environment has provided an initial reaction. The Presidency has developed some preliminary compromise papers and some aspects will be the subject of political discussion at the June Environment Council.  The incoming Austrian Presidency will consider the appropriate next steps.

The Commission initiated pilot infringement proceedings in May 2015 in relation to THMs in drinking water in Ireland. Ireland’s response was rejected by the Commission on 23 January 2017, but the case has not yet been escalated. My Department has been working closely with Irish Water on drinking water standards and work programmes are well in hand to address the issue.

Is the Minister satisfied the levels of investment in upgrading wastewater treatment plants are sufficient to ensure we will not face further legal action? Does he have any estimate as to when the decision of the European Court of Justice will be made? Is he confident that the European Commission is going to return to World Trade Organization, WTO, standards in the revised drinking water directive as an alternative to what is proposed in the current draft?

We do not have time for a response to the points raised by the Deputy because under Standing Order 29 we must now move to Leaders' Questions.