Sixty-nine per cent of the county’s waters are “generally satisfactory,” 31% are “moderately polluted at times” and none is “seriously polluted at times,” according to an EPA report presented to Kilkenny County Council’s environment committee this month.
The report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2011 outlines findings from several monitoring stations on each river that are sampled four to six times a year. The EU’s Water Framework Directive requires at least “good” water quality status for all waters; and for those better than “good” there must be no deterioration.
In County Kilkenny, 69% of the river waters were found to be generally satisfactory, including 48 monitoring points at the Barrow, Duiske, Gowran (one location), Powerstown Stream, Arrigle, Pococke, Castlecomer Stream, Dinan (four locations), Glory (two locations), Goul (two locations), Kings (three locations), Muckalee, Munster, Nore (seven locations), Owenbeg, Stoneyford Stream, Blackwater (Kilmacow), Lingaun, Pollanassa, Smartscastle Stream.
Twenty-two monitoring points – 31% of the total – were found to be moderately polluted at times: Gowran (two locations), Monefelim, Breagagh, Clough, Dinan (one location), Glory (one location), Goul (one location), Kings (three locations), Little Arrigle, Nore (six locations) and Nuenna.
None of the monitoring points was determined to be seriously polluted.
As a result of the findings, there are now nine priority stations for further investigation at the Fertagh Bridge, Freshford, Gowran, Monefelim, Breagagh (Kilkenny), Kells Bridge, Kilkenny, Ennisnag Bridge and Thomastown.
Ground water quality was also monitored at 10 points, and 97% of the groundwater bodies were found to be of good ecological status, compared with a figure of 85% nationally.
The quality of “transitional waters” was less than ideal, however. Only two of the 14 estuarine and coastal water bodies in the South East were found to be unpolluted as of 2011, according to the report. The Middle Suir Estuary was found to be eutropic (having a high level of nutrients present), and the Upper Suir Estuary was deemed to be potentially eutropic. The Nore Estuary, Upper Barrow Estuary, Barrow/ Nore Upper Estuary, New Ross Port and Lower Suir Estuary were all given “intermediate eutropic status.”
“The big picture is that they are actually improving, which is a very positive picture,” director of services Philip O’Neill said of the quality of river waters. “The challenge is that with a lot of our rivers that are at ‘good’ status we have a legal obligation to keep them at that level. ... The fact that there is no seriously polluted area is a positive picture, but it is a picture that we have to keep working at the whole time.”
“Part of that has to be as a result of the REPS (Rural Environment Protection Scheme) scheme and farmers’ awareness of the environment,” said Cllr Mary Hilda Cavanagh (FG). “Credit must go to them; they are observing best practice in farming – and likewise in industry.”
“But it needs to continue,” she emphasised. “There is no reason why the water shouldn’t be completely unpolluted.”
“Obviously the mine at Galmoy has not caused major problems either,” she added, “despite the scaremongering and fear that were there when the mine opened at first.”