The front of the EPA report Inklings writer Pat Kenny refers to in this week's column.

Double standards river deep, mountain high

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped a bombshell in their ‘Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2022 Year 2023’ report. Brace yourselves, because it’s a shocking display of double standards that’ll leave your jaw on the floor!

By Pat Kenny

According to the EPA, 26 towns and villages were shamelessly dumping raw sewage into the waterways in mid-2022, because they aren’t connected to treatment plants. Can you believe it? The sheer volume of this raw sewage, equivalent to that of 54,000 people, would fill three Olympic-size swimming pools every day.

But here’s the real kicker: there’s a glaring hypocrisy at play. On one hand, a single farmer would be hauled into court for a hint of negligence. On the other hand, official agencies and county councils are getting away with blatant sewage dumping without a shred of accountability. It’s a double standard that’s so mind-boggling it’s in a league of its own.

Every farmer knows the drill when it comes to keeping their local rivers and waterways clean, and they’re held to account, no question about it, and rightly so. Picture the stress they endure when dealing with flooding and having their farm business up to compliance standards every day of the year, especially with torrential rainfall like in the last few weeks.

It’s time we put a stop to this nonsense and hypocrisy.

Farmers have invested thousands of euro in environmental measures and act at a moment’s notice when weather goes against them.

Meanwhile, the government’s agencies get a cosy 20-year grace period to fix their environmental muck-ups. It’s a tale of two standards, and it’s time to stop blaming farmers for screw-ups when there is so much sewage dumping by wastewater treatment plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that Uisce Éireann, formerly Irish Water, has not managed to tackle pollution at some of the most significantly affected rivers, estuaries, lakes, and coastal waters.

Wastewater treatment at 15 large urban areas, including Dublin, did not meet EU environmental standards, while 26 towns and villages discharge raw sewage every day. It will take a multi-billion euro investment to get all sewage dumping systems up to standard and at least two decades to complete, the EPA warned.

Less than half of wastewater in Ireland is treated to European standards, despite Brussels requiring Ireland to do so 30 years ago.

While acknowledging it has made progress in some areas, the EPA urged Uisce Éireann to use its new investment plan to finally tackle wastewater in 89 areas of specific concern across the country.

The EPA said poor practices at plants, including two upgraded plants at Skibbereen and Courtmacsherry, County Cork, caused inadequately treated sewage to discharge into the environment.

“This is not acceptable as these plants have sufficient treatment capacity,” stated the EPA.

It’s become glaringly evident that double standards persist in the treatment of farmers versus government agencies. The farmers are held to rigorous standards and accountability and are regulated practically out of business, often struggling against relentless weather and market price fluctuations and high production cost challenges.

Government agencies, in their ivory towers, often escape accountability.

It’s time to level the playing field, to ensure fairness and equality, and stop pointing the finger at farmers for the cesspools of raw sewage flushed into rivers and estuaries by government agencies.

The rules applied should not differ; the goal is the same: a clean environment. It is time to stop applying double standards!

The report is available at

Pat Kenny is a member of the Inklings Writing Group, who meet on Tuesdays at 10.45am in the Annebrook House Hotel.