Arklow needs a Sewage Treatment Plant NOW!
Demand action from your politicians today!
Sign our petition – click here
Every day, the toilet waste of almost 12,000 people gets flushed into the River Avoca.
The proposed Sewage Treatment Plant was first awarded planning permission in 1993.
This was challenged unsuccessfully to An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála decided in
favour of the Sewage Treatment Plant but no funding arrived from government and the
planning permission was allowed to lapse. Further 10 year planning permission was then
Time after time, successive governments have taken credit for apparently funding the
construction of the sewage treatment plant. For example, NDP funding (2000 - 2006)
went towards the construction of the sewage treatment plant. Where is this phantom
treatment plant? The High Court ruled in favour
proposed Sewage Treatment
Plant for a third time on Friday 05th/October/2007. On Friday the 11th/January/2008,
Justice Frank Clarke granted leave to the objectors to appeal his decision to the Supreme
Court. The plant's opponents appealed this
case to the Supreme Court, with the Supreme
Court ruling in favour of the proposed sewage treatment plant on Thursday 21st/July/2011.
In addition to this, costs were awarded against the objectors. The Department of the
Environment has given assurances that the scheme has been approved for funding under
the Water Services Investment Programme. This would allow for the necessary Advance
Works to begin in 2008. In December 2007, Wicklow County Council applied to the EPA
for a licence to continue using the Avoca River as an open sewer for the town of Arklow.
Following the Supreme Court's ruling in favour of the proposed sewage treatment plant, the
Wicklow County Manager provided assurances that Wicklow County Council would proceed
with its construction as soon as possible.
Meanwhile raw human effluence continues to flow untreated into the River Avoca.
We, the citizens of Arklow need to put a stop to this situation NOW. Demand action from
your political representatives. We need a Sewage Treatment Plant NOW.
The final stretch of the Avoca River as it approaches the sea is regarded by the Environmental
Protection Agency as the most polluted stretch of river in Ireland. According to the 2006
Census, the town of Arklow has a population of 11,712 people making it the 33rd largest town
or city in Ireland. As of 2011, there has never been any form of sewage treatment facility for
the town of Arklow. All sewage from Arklow passes through a combined sewer system
which was installed in the 1930s, and gets discharged untreated, directly into the River Avoca
from a series of outfall pipes on both riverbanks between the Arklow Bypass bridge over
the river, and the mouth of the river. On 21/May/1991, the European Commission adopted the
31/December/2005, all urban areas with a population equivalent greater than 2,000 people are
legally obliged under European law to have the relevant treatment facilities and collection
systems. In 1990, the Department of the Environment, spurred on by the impending EU Urban
Wastewater Treatment Directive, initiated the process of creating a secondary sewage treatment
facility for Arklow by requesting the town council to prepare an Environmental Impact
Statement. 21 years later the town still has no sewage treatment facility, despite an increase in
population of almost 4,000 people (circa. 50%) since 1990 The continued discharge of sewage
into the River Avoca is illegal under European Law. Why have our politicians failed to act?
The “Clean Our River” campaign is entirely non-political. This is about the people of
Arklow exercising their will as Irish citizens, and not as members of political parties.
Members of any political persuasion are welcome to join our cause.
Wicklow People – 23rd August 2007
Avoca River 'the filthiest' in Ireland
DIVERS WHO have been searching last week for a 28-year-old Latvian man believed drowned in the Avoca River
at Arklow say that the water in the river was the filthiest they had ever encountered. Divers from the Garda Water
Unit searched the river for three days last week and volunteer divers from the Boyne Fishermen's Rescue and Recovery
Group continued the search over the weekend. No trace of the missing man has been found, apart from his clothes,
which were located beside the river by a local lifeboat crew member last Sunday morning (August 12).
Thomas Daly, from the Boyne group, said the filth in the river was worse than anything else he had experienced.
'It was absolutely disgusting,' he said. 'We are used to diving in zero visibility but in the Avoca, we were diving in two
and a half feet of raw sewage.' 'On one dive near the sewage outfall pipe, it was like it was snow underwater, because
there was bits of toilet paper everywhere. 'It is just disgusting, filthy and the worst we have ever come across. Human
excrement is floating past you all the time,' another diver was quoted as saying. Divers had to thoroughly clean and
disinfect their drysuits after each dive. Gardai this week called off the underwater search and concentrated on surface
searches of the Avoca River and Arklow Bay area.
The Arklow Sea Scout Group was established in 1972, and caters for young people between the ages of 6 years old
and 21 years old. From our beginning we have been using the River Avoca for our activities. I was reared with Sea Scouting
and I have grown to value what the river has to offer. We are one of the primary users of the river. The lower basin is ideal
for small-boating, it has a small tidal range of 1.3m, which means you can carry out all activities at any time of day. Unlike
most rivers you will not be swept away on an ebbing tide. The river above the bridge is shallow and safe, ideal for flat
water-canoeing. What is unusual about the river is that there is very little farmland or industry from its source to the sea.
However, the unfortunate reality is that the lower section of river is extremely polluted mostly by sewage. The sight of
human effluence in the river can be hard to stomach, along with the sight of, among other things, condoms, syringes, nappies,
cooking fats, and oils. When people flush these things down their drains, do they ever consider where they are going? When
these same people decide to cool off on scorching hot days by visiting the beach, do they wonder what they are swimming in?
We as Sea Scout Leaders unfortunately need to insist that all of our members shower after each boating session. We were
forced to fundraise so that we could build a shower block, for the safety of all our members. Why is it that in this day and age,
after over a decade of unprecedented economic success in this country, that we have to fear diseases such as Weil's disease
and Cholera whenever we go boating?
So we move on to the contentious issue of the Arklow Sewerage Treatment Plant, a saga that has been running for almost 15
years now. Every citizen has a right to object to planned developments, but for how long can a small group of hardcore
objectors hold an entire town to ransom? How long can this saga continue for, not only as a planning issue, but also as a matter
of public health? It is my understanding that Arklow is the largest town in Ireland without a sewerage treatment plant. Is it not
enough that we also have to contend with the poisonous contents of the Avoca mines leaching into the river water, and the fact
that when treatment plants in towns like Rathdrum break down, the wastewater is released into the river system which
eventually flows through Arklow? Legislation should exist permitting matters of public health to take precedence in cases of
I can remember a recent news report on RTE News where they filmed the sewage of a small village in Galway flowing into a
local river. Recent Census figures show the population of Arklow to be 11,759 people, many more than in the village featured
in the RTE News report. Every day, each of those 11,759 people flush their toilets at least once. The waste then flows
through a drainage system built in the 1940s, and then spews out into the River Avoca completely untreated. Perhaps
we won’t receive the same level of attention until an outbreak of cryptosporidium occurs here in County Wicklow.
Will we, the citizens of Arklow, have to endure this perennial fiasco until someone gets seriously ill, or perhaps dies, as a
result of diseases contracted from the River Avoca? The voters of this town have to realise that the powers of change lie in
their own hands. When the politicians come knocking on the door looking for votes, ask them what they plan on doing to end
this debacle. Demand that they act to end this farce with immediate effect. Most importantly, cast your vote in the general
election for candidates who you believe will act to bring this apparently never-ending travesty to a conclusion.
I dream of a time when the young people of Arklow can spend those lazy Summer afternoons swimming in the Avoca river,
free of any worries, and free of any potential harm. Walking along the riverbank on sunny days as we have had in abundance
over the past few month, I think to myself that this dream is as far away as ever.
Yours in Sea Scouting,
Sea Scout Leader,
Port of Arklow Sea Scout Group.