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Local opposition to planned Kilkee wastewater facility

Plans by Uisce Éireann to finally install a new wastewater facility in the seaside town of Kilkee, Co Clare has met opposition from many in the town, who say it is being built in the wrong location and could destroy the famous cliff walk – one of the town’s biggest tourist attractions.

In addition, primary treatment alone of sewage is proposed, which the community there say is not sufficient.

Kilkee is one of over 30 towns across the country where raw sewage is still pumped out into the sea close to its crescent shaped beach.

A view from Kilkee beach in Co Clare

The town is a very popular tourist location on the Loop Head peninsula and has been a busy summer location for holiday makers for generations attracted by its seaside activities.

Its cliff walks, and the famous pollock holes, the natural rock formed swimming polls on its cliff coast.

Its population stands at just under 1,000 people but it swells up to 20,000 during the summer, with high numbers of visitors from April to October each year.

But it has long been blighted by the absence of proper and modern water treatment infrastructure.

Frequently there are bathing bans over the summer months when the beach becomes contaminated by raw sewage and E. coli bacteria.

This causes huge problems for a town dependent on visitors and tourists who come because of the amenities, its natural beauty, its cliff walks, and the water-based activities its coastal location offers.

Now, after many decades of inadequate water treatment facilities Uisce Éireann is proposing to finally build a wastewater plant on an 8-acre site on the Dunlicky Road within 80 metres of the nearest house.

The site of the proposed wastewater treatment facility on Dunlicky Road

Dunlicky Road is part of the famous Kilkee Cliff walk and forms a loop for thousands of walkers as they navigate the Kilkee cliffs.

Locals have said a large industrial site on Dunlicky Road will destroy one of the town’s best tourist attractions.

Everyone agrees that wastewater facilities are badly needed, and the lack of them is constricting the town’s development, but just not in this particular location.

Martin Busher lives close by and is part of the Dunlicky Road residents’ group who knew nothing of this proposal until a planning notice from Uisce Éireann went up on the field close to his home.

“We’re on the Wild Atlantic Way here. The Kilkee Cliff walk is a jewel of Kilkee. Thousaands of people walk the cliff walk every day as they have done for years,” Mr Busher said.

The planning notice from Uisce Éireann for the planned wastewater treatment facility

“Now they will be walking past sewage tanks which are 100 metres in off the road, with the westerly winds blowing all contaminants, bacteria, smells whatever from two massive storage tanks. If Kilkee has this it will be a bad tourist attraction, people will come and they won’t want to come back. Kilkee needs tourist to survive and if we lose them Kilkee dies,” he said.

Joseph McCluskey is another concerned resident in the area.

“We thought when we finally got news of a wastewater treatment plant that all the problems with our water would be resolved, but sadly that is not the case,” he said.

Mr McCluskey added: “There is no way you can hide this structure. Uisce Éireann are talking about putting trees and shrubs around it, but that’s not going to happen because they will not grow in this environment, and they will destroy a beautiful scenic route, used by thousands particularly during the months of July and August.

“It is simply not tenable to put a sewage treatment plant on top of such a well-used public amenity,” he said.

Tom Boland who also lives close by said he had a number of concerns about the proposed plant at this site, particularly the impact of a large industrial structure in the area of wildlife habitats.

“Uisce Éireann are proposing putting 18 large lighting towers around the plant with double lights on each. That’s 36 flood lights and it will light up this rural quiet area like a football field, and that will have an impact on bats and barn owls,” Mr Boland said.

The Kilkee cliff walk attracts thousands of tourists to the town each summer

“It could also potentially attract rodents and if the rodents are poisoned, they will have an impact on peregrine falcons who nest in the area and on ravens as well,” he added.

And in addition to the location problems, there are also concerns that only primary treatment of sewage is being proposed, when tertiary treatment was promised up to 30 years ago.

Councillor Cillian Murphy from Clare County Council said: “How can you put in primary treatment on a site which is not appropriate, and which may need to grow and get bigger in the future. This is a one-shot deal. We are not going to be visiting this again for twenty or thirty years, so why put in a system that is patently not going to do what it should do which is put clean water out in the ocean,” he said.

Uisce Éireann would not confirm if other sites for this wastewater treatment plant were examined. Local action groups believe there are other sites that would be more suitable for such a necessary development.

In a statement Uisce Éireann said: “The new sewerage infrastructure will bring significant benefits to the local community by improving water quality in the receiving waters at Intrinsic Bay, in compliance with national and EU regulations relating to the treatment of wastewater.

Wastewater treatment in Kilkee is currently not compliant with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

It will also enhance the environmental amenity of Kilkee, protecting recreational swimming, fishing, boating and sightseeing waters and allow for the provision of social and economic development and future growth within the Kilkee area.

The Government’s Infrastructure Guidelines (formerly the Public Spending Code) require Uisce Éireann to consider all viable options during the planning and design process.

“We have followed these procedures and taken other constraints, like the Clare County Development Plan, into consideration when coming up with the design and location of this plant.

“Uisce Éireann hosted a briefing on the project with elected representatives in 2022 and we will continue to engage with the local community as we progress this essential project,” a statement said.

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