Water In Crystalline Form on Slieve Foye

The 2016 Winter Workshop was held on Saturday 23rd January at 2pm in the Strand Hotel, Omeath on Water: Guaranteeing A Safe Supply. Paul Smyth welcomed the guests and thanked them for attending. Sean Crudden took over the hot-seat and outlined the agenda for the workshop in the absence of the facilitator Dermot Mooney who had been delayed.

Sean Crudden outlined the 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the general assembly of the UN on 25 September 2015. He then read out a more detailed breakdown of sustainable goal No. 6 on water and sanitation, before briefly outlining the structure of Irish Water. He concluded his introduction with a description of the element Phosphorus.

Ollan Herr, the keynote speaker, introduced himself as an environmentalist and a businessman arguing for greater investment in water treatment. He emphasized the need to develop systems to recover essential nutrients from waste water, and to recycle resources if we wished to be sustainable. He argued that in 40 to 100 years the systems he is talking about now will be more common.

He foresaw the need for a partnership between home owners and Irish Water, rather than rely on a centralised system. Whilst enterprise should be encouraged, a free market was not the correct lens to view the future. More community involvement, and more personal responsibility needed.

Omeath has not waste water treatment like a lot of other places around the country. Up to the 1930’s food production was based on recycling of animal and human manure, but now we are wasting recyclable resources. Taking the example of guano, due to the increase in food production the supply of guano is becoming depleted, despite licencing by Peru. Extracting Phosphorus  from mined rock is not a long-term answer: there is currently only an estimated 40 years supply.

The EU is encouraging the re-use of sludges. Sludges cannot be put unprocessed on land due to heavy metals, but the price of processing Phosphorus from sludge will increase.

We should act before the crisis comes by putting in systems which focus on the recovery of Phosphorus from waste water. We should recycle food waste and extract Phosphorus and Nitrogen for land use. We should also recycle human excrement.

The alternative to recycling is eutrophication due to nutrients finding their way into water bodies, resulting in algal growths which threaten the oxygen supply of fish and other.

Ollan described a number of measures which could be taken at the level of individual households to recycle and to avoid waste water pollution, such as urine separation and faecal composting.He then described some ongoing projects, such as the Glaslough project. The EPA should be playing a more pro-active role, but it tended to play safe and was conservative in outlook.

Ollan was thanked by Seán Crudden; and Paul Smyth, chairperson CEHG, presented Ollan with a bottle of Kilbeggan traditional Irish Whiskey donated by Cooley Distillery.

After a break for tea and biscuits, the workshop participants split into three discussion groups. Each group took a different topic.

Sean Crudden, Paul Smyth and Ollan Herr


Aoife Kieran reported back to the main group on the discussions of this sub-group. Topics discussed included:

  • Rainwater harvesting
  • The need for more reservoirs (would reduce flooding)
  • Treatment of grey water for the purposes of recycling
  • Chemical content in water? Concerns re lime in tap water + chlorine + fluoride
  • The need to reduce mains water demand – low flush toilets + ban power showers
  • The desirability of information campaigns re water use
  • The need to recycle water. On-site systems are required for treatment of waste water. This should be incorporated into rainwater harvesting
  • The proposal that all new social housing projects rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling systems should be mandatory
  • A strategy to identify important water sources; and to avoid pollution entering those systems


Liam Kieran Jnr. reported back to the main group on the discussions of this sub-group. Topics discussed included:

  • Private wells
  • UV light use + reverse osmosis system
  • 12 monthly checks of water purity
  • The danger that people could be drinking water that is contaminated
  • Cost considerations: private water schemes dearer than getting water from central sources
  • Wastage: 60%-80% purified water is lost through the network
  • Pollution: people used to drink out of river and cannot now
  • Planning conditions need to be enforced to bury pipes underground to reduce risk of burst pipe
  • In America, they use vacuum toilets to suck out waste, faeces, quickly
  • We copy what Brits do rather than looking around Europe and elsewhere. We should ask what is most appropriate
  • Policy across the board should be a fact not a wish

Eamonn O'Boyle, Pat Ferrigan, Chris Nikkel, Liam Kieran, and Eric Hynes made the following points:
  • We are in a time bomb relating to how we treat wastewater. People’s pharmaceutical intake is getting in to the water supply and this isn’t being dealt with
  • Unless EU forces us with fine threat we put it on the long finger. Should get EU regulations implemented right.
  • EPA staff numbers have been slashed, so they cannot do the job
  • Houses were built without insulation, in flood plains
  • Water is going to be the new gold
  • Can we upgrade pre-existing sewage treatment to profitably develop fertiliser for agriculture?
  • Should we encourage people to catch rainwater? Yes, we should
  • Toilets can use stored rainwater & women said it was softer
  • Sewage treatment isn’t consistently good due to one off housing. We may need to enforce compliance with use
  • We always take the easy way out & path of least resistance rather than doing the right thing
  • Fish stocks have dropped due to increasing pollution. 
  • Education is a vital ingredient but we also need investment and enforcement to improve matters. Water is simply not the highest item on the agenda
  • A lot of things happen because people did not really know what was happening. Most people went on hearsay.


Liam Kieran reported on some of the points made by members of his sub-group:

Dermot, “In the North there is one water body with no local control. Is this the correct model?”

Don, “The new situation is sound. It can prioritise need viz. leaks."

Kevin, “There should be no corruption in the provision of water.”

Kevin McGeough, “Irish Water was a sound idea which could reduce administrative costs and have some local involvement.”

Liam, “Ireland uses double what EU uses per capita. This costs us the taxpayer much. So the water charges will finally cut out waste and will cut down tax.”

Don, “Water which was not metered was used in excessive amounts. Irish Water was set up in a hurry and this hurry resulted in many of the problems Irish Water now has. Future planning should require new buildings to have a water retrieval system."

Kevin, “Formerly people used barrels to collect water. Payment must be just. People who have little money should not have to pay for normal water use.”

Kevin McGeough, “People who had a private water supply got a €100. But it would be better if such private water supply were part of the water managed by Irish Water.”

Liam, “87% of infections are water borne.”

Kevin McGeough, “Irish water needs a proper revenue stream.”

Don, “The arsenic in water in this area was discovered by chance and so may more would be a risk.”

Kevin McGeough, “I have a filtered water supply.”

Kevin, “After the next election there will be a solution of the water situation.”

Dermot, “Do we have adequate storage for water? Should we have more regional integration with water-generated electricity?”

Liam Kieran snr. added the following points:

  • Irish Water was set up on the afternoon before the Dáil dissolved for Xmas
  • There was little discussion and no amendments as the guillotine was used
  • This haste caused many of the problems of Irish Water
  • Administration costs more than revenue
  • Strange grants issued
  • Unmetered water consumption soared
  • Leaks were left unfixed
  • The Govt. almost fell
  • However Ireland uses twice as much water as the EU average
  • So we do need an Irish Water which is both efficient and fair
  • 87% of infection is water borne
  • So ignoring water is life-threatening

When Aoiffe, Liam Jnr. and Liam had reported back to the main circle Seán Crudden remarked that his experience of dealing with the customer advisory service of Uisce Éireann in connection with the workshop was positive. He said, “Uisce Éireann has the people. I wish them well. There is a lot of work to be done.” Seán remarked on the smells which pollute Bellurgan in the summer time. “If the sewage processing plant across the estuary is working properly then it is inadequate,” he asserted. Finally Seán read an e-mail dated 24 August 2015 from Gavin O’Neill, customer service advisor, Uisce Éireann, Cork which outlined the structure of the Cooley Regional Water Supply Scheme.

The workshop commenced at 14:10 and concluded at 17:00. Seán Crudden and Don Johnston took photos c 15:35 at the tea break.

Don Johnston won a bottle of Kilbeggan, donated by Cooley Distillery, in the raffle. The ticket was drawn from a Stetson by Geraldine Kieran.

Attendees: Aoife Kieran, Chris Nikkel, John Conway (Louth Environmental Group), Liam Kieran, Liam Kieran Jnr., Geraldine Kieran, Eric Hynes, Kevin Hynes, Michael Desmond Hynes, Sean Crudden, Paul Smyth, Dermot Mooney, Don Johnston, Kevin McGeough, Pat Ferrigan, Ollan Herr, Eamonn O’Boyle.

Apologies:  Anne Muldowney, Edward Crudden, Michael Corrigan, Fergus O’Dowd TD, Princess Yinka Dixon, Senator Terry Brennan, Dennis Pringle.

More pictures from the 2016 workshop