Leaky water plants could face €120m fines

Paul Melia, Environment Correspondent

IRELAND faces fines of up to €120m because faulty waste water treatment plants are polluting water sources.

One in four plants is not operating to the highest environmental standards, and there are "significant" quality issues across the country.

Irish Water managing director John Tierney said as many as 80 plants were non-compliant with rules from the European Commission, and fines were a possibility.

He also warned that almost 40pc of all plants were operating at a rate higher than their capacity.

The poor state of the network comes despite some €4bn being invested in waste water treatment plants since 2000.

"The lack of capacity in water services, both supply and treatment, unless addressed will be a constraint on economic development in the east of the country and in particular in the greater Dublin area, the economic engine for the country," Mr Tierney said.

"The European Commission has launched a pilot infringement case in relation to 80 treatment plants – the potential cost of the fines could be up to €120m – in addition to the cost of the infrastructure upgrade required to address the non-compliance."

He said investment would be based on where the "greatest benefit can be achieved", and that the historic lack of investment had resulted in a high risk of failure, environmental damage and loss of confidence by consumers.