The EU’s Water Framework Directive restated and updated measures at EU level against water pollution. It seeks to protect water resources and promote their sustainable use and takes a high-level approach. It provides for planning on the basis of river basins so as to ensure integrated management of water resources including water in rivers, canals and ground water. It seeks. The EU (Water Policy) Regulations identify the competent authorities.
The State is divided into a number of regions, on an all-Ireland basis. Provision is made for liaison with the correspondent Northern Ireland authorities. International conventions and EU law prescribed a range of standards for water pollution which are binding on states.
River basin management plans must be established. The adoption of the plan is reserved to the elected members. However, there are measures to ensure that the plan is made. If the elected members refuse to make it the local authority executive may make it.
Local authorities must report to the EPA on the plan. The EPA must report on progress to the EU Commission. A River Basin Advisory Council must be established for five-yearly period comprising members of local authorities, nominees and representatives of interested parties and certain other appointed representatives.
Water Management II
Local authorities have a statutory obligation to provide pure and wholesome water to persons, public and private within their district. They have the power to acquire and take ownership of private water mains. They must take ownership if requested by the majority of the owners, provided that they are in good repair.
States are obliged to provide incentives to use water resources efficiently. They are to ensure an adequate contribution is made by different water users to the cost of water. States need not impose water charges, provided it does not compromise the objectives of the Directives.
It is an offence to cause or allow any water tap or other apparatus to be out of repair, so as to cause misuse or undue use or contamination of water. This is subject to a fine of up to €1,300 and six months imprisonment on summary conviction. Authorities may cut off the water supply of persons who fail to prevent it from becoming contaminated.
Measures must be taken to prevent the deterioration of water resources and achieve certain objectives for their protection and improvement. Waters are to be classified. The legislation places positive obligations on the authorities to prevent and limit pollution and to prevent the deterioration of the status of groundwater, in accordance with certain categorisation.
Vulnerable are subject to more stringent controls and protection. States must identify the areas requiring greater protection. The areas must be registered and reviewed from time to time. Limited derogations only are permissible. Proper surveillance and monitoring must be undertaken to ensure the achievement of the objectives. In limited cases, the general deadline for achieving the objectives may be extended.
States must establish a program of measure for each river basin district in order to receive the requisite objective. There are provisions in order to ensure public participation. Interested parties are to be given the opportunity to make representations. States must report to the European Commission on the progress in achieving the objectives.
EU Directives provide standards for freshwater fish waters. They require prescribed standards be met for salmonoid waters and shellfish waters. Sampling and monitoring are required.
EU Directives on drinking water prescribes standards which are internationally recognised. Authorities are obliged to monitor and analyse water in order to ensure that the standards are complied with. The Environmental Protection Agency may require local authorities to supply monitoring information on drinking water. It has the function generally, to ensure that local authorities comply with their obligations in relation to drinking war.
EU legislation sets out essential health and quality measures for drinking water. There is a measure of discretion to provide higher standards. The legislation provides a wide range of values, with which the water must comply. These refer to the presence or absence and tolerance level of particular substances. Authorities have obligations to take remedial and enforcement action to ensure the required standards are complied with.
The EPA may permit local authorities to depart from some of the parameters, provided there is no potential risk to public health. This should be must be for a limited period and be subject to conditions, which must be reviewed.
EU Directives provide for standards for natural mineral water for human consumption. Labelling obligations apply, similar to those applicable to food and drink generally. There are restrictions on what may be labelled natural mineral water. The same broad rules and practices as apply to standards approval generally, apply. The NSAI is the authority.
Urban Waste Water
EU Directives prescribe standards for urban wastewater treatment. The sanitary authorities in Ireland, which are generally the local authorities, were formerly responsible for the reception of sewage waste, treatment and disposal. This has changed with the advent of Irish Water. The EU standards prescribe methods and standards for the treatment and disposal of effluent. A minimum degree of treatment is required by law.
Higher standards apply to waters to be discharged into sensitive areas. Legislation designate areas as sensitive, requiring higher standards of treatment prior to disposal.
The Minister may make regulations empowering the EPA to regulate sanitary authorities in the relation to the discharge of effluent. This was not been done.
EU Directive prescribe standards for bathing waters. The water quality standards must be met in the identified bathing areas. Most public bathing waters are covered, except those frequented by insubstantial numbers.
There are limits and tolerances for the presence of certain substances. If the relevant limits are exceeded, steps must be taken to ensure they are brought back in conformity. The standards are relatively onerous. Sampling and monitoring must be undertaken and the relevant limits values must be observed. The EPA may permit deviations from standards on an exceptional basis.
Nitrates and Agriculture
The Nitrates Directive seeks to protect the environment and waters in particular, from nitrate-based pollution. Threshold and limits are expressed for nitrates. This limits the quantum of livestock manure which may be spread in certain vulnerable areas.
The State is obliged to identify the nitrates vulnerable zones. It must adopt action programs in order to reduce pollution. The Directive has required the alteration of certain farming practices.
The Directive applies to natural and artificial fertilisers. There are maximum levels of permitted manure spread, nationally and per area. States are obliged to undertake an effective action program in order to ensure that the specified level of nitrate concentration is not exceeded. Potentially vulnerable areas must be identified.
Standards for good farming practice have been published. The action program requires farmers to undertake good farming practices as prescribed and prepare nutrient management plans. These are required as a condition of qualification for various agricultural supports under EU schemes.
Dangerous Substances and Groundwater
Discharges of dangerous substances must be eliminated under EU Directives. The Directives categorise substances in accordance with their toxicity and other measures of danger to the environment. List 1 substances must be eliminated. List 2 substances must be maintained within limits values. The discharge of dangerous substances must be subject to prior authorisation. States must draw up programs to reduce list 2 substances.
EU Directives seek to combat pollution by a dangerous substance to ground waters. Sanitary authorities are subject to the legislation. They may not permit dangerous substances to discharge directly into aquifers. Certain discharges of effluent, require licenses from the EPA. Groundwater is subterranean water into the saturation zone and in direct contact with the ground or subsoil.
The Groundwater Regulations prescribed standards for sewage and other effluent discharged to an aquifer by a sanitary authority, which contain prescribed harmful substances. The EPA may grant licenses subject to conditions. The EPA licenses may be reviewed from time to time and subjected to amended conditions.
The discharge by other entities into aquifers requires licenses under the Water Pollution legislation. A license application must be accompanied by the results of a prior investigation. In most cases, this is in the nature of an Environmental Impact Assessment. There are prescribed standards for discharges.
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