EPA Water Quality Report underlines need for Dublin Bay Bill
Speaking in a Dáil debate on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Quality Report 2022, Labour Leader and TD for Dublin Bay South, Ivana Bacik, has called for a stronger legal framework for the protection of users of Dublin Bay.
Deputy Bacik said:
“I welcome the opportunity to debate the most recent EPA Water Quality Report for 2022.
“It is vital that legislators across the House recognise the important public health issue which is water quality. Particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic, so many people across Dublin have begun to use Dublin Bay for their enjoyment – swimming, sailing, paddling and walking the coast year-round.
“The EPA was clear: Uisce Éireann needs to improve the operation, management and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants and networks which impact on bathing waters. I have seen alarming photographs of sanitary towels and other materials strewn on Sandymount Strand due to poor water management.
“Moreover, we are all familiar with the no swim notices which are circulated each time there is heavy rainfall because the seawater has become unsafe for bathers. That is no way for us to treat the Bay.
“Last October, I was glad to receive confirmation from the Minister for Housing that the Government intends to roll-out year-round water quality testing. Many months have passed since that commitment and I am concerned that there has been some slippage in terms of Government aspiration when it comes to water quality testing and treatment.
“I want to see a stronger vision to realise the true potential of our Bay.
“In December, the Dáil debated the Dublin Bay Bill 2021, which I was proud to introduce. If passed, it would establish a statutory Dublin Bay authority charged with preserving the distinctive character of Dublin Bay and protecting its ecology as a coastal resource. It would improve the amenity of the Bay for sea swimmers, sailors, walkers, and all of those who want to use the Bay area.
“The authority would have a mandate to:
- Propose and promote policies and priorities for the protection and enhancement of the environment of Dublin Bay and of the natural habitats and wildlife in and around the bay;
- Co-ordinate, promote and support strategic planning and sustainable development in and around Dublin Bay;
- Make recommendations to regulate and control pollution in and around the bay;
- Promote public interest in and respect for Dublin Bay as a public amenity; and
- Co-ordinate the activities of public bodies and other organisations and persons in matters connected with the performance of its functions.
“It is envisaged that membership of the authority will come from elected members of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly and others with a special expertise or interest in the future protection of the bay. That co-ordination and that democratic accountability is what we see as hugely important in the establishment of this statutory authority. There is already an authority in place. However, it is toothless due to its non-statutory composition.
“I have been, frankly, staggered at the reaction to the Bill I proposed. People from all over Dublin, as well as residents associations, swimming clubs, and environmental activists, have been crying out for a stronger vision for tackling pollution and dereliction along our coast.
“During the debate on the Bill last year, the Government chose not to oppose this bill, and indicated that it would work with me to see it passed. I am calling on Minister O’Brien to make good on his commitment, and to work with me to see it passed before the end of this Dáil term.”