An Bord Pleanála has granted Irish Water permission for an upgrade of the Vartry Water Treatment Plant.
In November 2016, Wicklow County Council gave the project the green light but three different parties lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála.
An oral hearing was held in June 2017 and there were consultations between Irish Water, local stakeholders and local representatives.
The Vartry Water Supply Scheme is identified as a supply in urgent need of improvement by the EPA. The plant serves 200,000 people in Wicklow and parts of south Dublin but presently has inadequate treatment against cryptosporidium and trihalomethanes or THMs.
In welcoming the decision by An Bord Pleanála, Geoff O'Sullivan, Programme Delivery Manger with Irish Water said described the planned upgrade of the Vartry scheme as a 'priority project'.
'As part of the project, Irish Water has committed to a number of significant measures to protect the ecology of the River Vartry, particularly during drought periods. The project will restore the treatment plant and water supply to ensure it meets all drinking water regulations and safeguards public health,' he said.
The permission sought included plans for a water treatment building, pumping station, sludge treatment facilities, alterations to reservoir offtake tower, additions and alterations to pipework.
Cllr Jennifer Whitmore of the Social Democrats has welcomed the fact that certain environmental protections have been put in place by An Bord Pleanála before granting permission.
Cllr Whitmore, who has a background in fisheries science and water management and had concerns over potential water reductions in the Vartry, was one of those who had lodged an observation with An Bord Pleanála.
'I was pleased this week to see that, as part of the grant of planning permission for the new reservoir, An Bord Pleanála have included both flow and biological monitoring requirements on Irish Water. These assessments and monitoring conditions should ensure that there is no detrimental impact to the downstream River Vartry, an EU designated Salmonid river.
'My main concerns regarding this project from the outset centred around the fact that no Environmental Impact Assessment was undertaken as part of the proposal. I felt this was particularly important in light of the fact that flows into the Vartry could be cut by up to two-thirds once the plant was fully operational, which could have had significant impacts on the fish populations in the river.
'As part of my observation, I and other appellants, recommended that a biological assessment programme be established over the course of the construction period, to assess the current status and to gauge the potential impact of any changes on flow to the system.
'It is very welcome that An Bord Pleanála took these recommendations on board. This compromise will enable the reservoir to be built, but any changes in the releases of water into the Vartry will now be monitored and assessed for environmental damage.
'This decision is a good compromise between enabling the upgrade to happen as soon as possible, protecting water supplies for residents of Wicklow but also protecting the environment - this was always what I had hoped we would achieve and I'm pleased that it has turned out this way.'
Irish Water also has confirmed that flows of five million litres per day will be provided to replace water that releases from the present water treatment plant on a variable basis.
The guaranteed flow of five million litres per day is deigned to protect the ecology of the river during periods of low flow. Previously, during periods of drought, there was no flow release from the water treatment plant.