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Increase in Pollution of Irish Rivers and Lakes a Disaster for Biodiversity & Human Health &#82

MEP Grace O'Sullivan on a boat in the River Shannon

Increase in Pollution of Irish Rivers and Lakes a Disaster for Biodiversity & Human Health – MEP Grace O’Sullivan

EPA report has revealed a continued decline in water quality across the nation’s rivers, lakes and estuaries.

Almost half of river bodies in Ireland are now polluted, with 19% noted as either in a “bad” or “poor” condition. 

This statistic was shared in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s newly-released “Water Quality in Ireland Report 2016 to 2021”, which reveals that just half of all water bodies in Ireland are in a satisfactory condition, with significant declines in water quality being recorded in the last 5 years.

MEP for Ireland South Grace O’Sullivan noted that this result was a disappointment, but unfortunately not a surprise, stating “These findings have come at a time where we have already recognised that we are in a biodiversity crisis”.

“The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) this week revealed that almost 70% of wildlife populations have disappeared since 1970. These are the consequences of policy decisions and actions taken by the human race, where industry is allowed to endlessly extract and destroy, facilitated by the inaction of decision makers until now. Ireland is no different, and we need to be doing much more to protect our precious water resources” the MEP said. 

The EPA stated that agricultural runoff was a major contributor to the decrease in water quality, with higher concentrations of nitrates and phosphates being recorded across most river bodies and estuaries. This is directly linked to fertiliser usage, and poses a significant risk to human health when used as drinking water. O’Sullivan noted that the Department of Agriculture’s regular requests for a derogation from the EU Nitrates Directive is having a direct impact on rivers like the Shannon and the Suir. The directive normally limits the amounts of the fertiliser which can be used on land, for environmental and public health reasons, but an exemption is often granted to Ireland to sustain large dairy herds. 

“While biodiversity and nature are the current losers, these actions will inevitably lead to consequences for people too. The vast majority of farmers do not benefit from increased nitrates usage, but we all suffer from it.” MEP O’Sullivan stated. 

“If we want to ensure that we have clean drinking water, safe places to bathe and liveable ecosystems for fish and other wildlife, we will need stronger plans and braver actions from all parties. The government has begun to act, with a new River Basin Management Plan forthcoming, but we need to tackle nitrates levels as a matter of priority.”

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