The European Commission plans to take Ireland to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to upgrade the wastewater treatment infrastructure.

Under EU law (Council Directive 91/271/EEC), towns and cities are required to collect and treat their urban wastewater.  Untreated wastewater can put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, soil, coastal and groundwater.

There are 38 locations around Ireland with inadequate wastewater infrastructure, including Arklow, Athlone, Cavan, Killarney, Waterford City and many more.

EU member states had until the end of 2000 to ensure appropriate treatment of wastewater from large urban areas.  Countries were given until 2006 to properly treat discharges from medium-sized areas and discharges into freshwater and estuaries from smaller areas.

The Commission, the EU’s independent executive arm, initiated its case against Ireland four years ago and followed up with warnings in 2015 and last year.

The Commission said it was also concerned about the “failure to ensure that a correct operating licence has been issued for the treatment plants serving the agglomerations of Arklow and Castlebridge”.

If Ireland is found to be at fault by the Court of Justice of the EU, it will be issued with a further warning to comply with the law or risk a second case being brought, which may result in a fine.