Water Pollution and Discharge Licencing

Limerick City and County Council investigates all reported incidents of water pollution in public waters within its functional area. As a maritime local authority, the Council will also respond to reports of pollution above the high water mark in coastal areas.

However, in many instances, it may also be appropriate for the Council to consult with other relevant bodies such as Inland Fisheries Ireland, Waterways Ireland, the Office of Public Works, the Environmental Protection Agency, neighbouring local authorities and the Shannon-Foynes Port Company.

The Council is also a shareholder in SEA-PT Ltd. Further information below.

Report Water Pollution
St. Colman’s Holy Well
Effluent Discharge
The Regulatory Framework
Administration of Discharge Licencing
Application Forms
Contact Information
The Shannon Estuary Anti-Pollution Team
Water Pollution Legislation

Report Water Pollution

To report a suspected water pollution incident, please contact:

Planning & Environmental Services Department
Phone: +353 61 556000
Email: customerservices@limerick.ie

Reporting Water Pollution

Under water pollution legislation, the release of any polluting matter to drains (including via hard surfaces), ditches, waterbodies, watercourses, soil etc. is deemed to be water pollution and the polluter is legally obliged to report such incidents to the relevant local authority as a matter of urgency.

A spillage of domestic central heating oil, no matter how small, is a water pollution incident and it must be reported to the local authority immediately. It should also be reported to the relevant house insurer at the same time as early intervention helps to reduce environmental damage and associated remediation costs.

Other examples of water pollution incidents include:

  • Uncontrolled release of slurry onto land, a drain or ditch
  • Accidental opening of a valve on a tanker containing material other than clean water
  • pouring of fats, oils or grease down a drain
  • The discharge of chemicals or sewage into a drain which ultimately feeds into a stream, river or lake
  • Overflow from defective waste water treatment systems such as septic tanks

Please bear in mind also that apart from the environmental damage caused by water pollution incidents, there may be associated public health risks as well.

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St. Colman’s Holy Well, Colmanswell (Updated 18/12/18)

Following consultation with the Environmental Health Department of the HSE West, Limerick City and County Council staff erected signs at St. Colman’s Well in September, 2017, advising the public that the water from the well was unsuitable for human consumption.

Further testing of samples of the well water in summer 2018 has confirmed that this is still the case.

Under no circumstances, should any member of the public drink or handle water from this well unless otherwise advised by either agency.

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Effluent Discharge

What is “Effluent Discharge” and how is it generated?

The Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, defines trade effluent as “effluent from any works, apparatus, plant or drainage pipe used for the disposal to waters or to a sewer of any liquid (whether treated or untreated), either with or without particles of matter in suspension therein, which is discharged from premises used for carrying on any trade or industry (including mining), but does not include domestic sewage or storm water;”

In recent decades, there has been a huge increase in numbers of industrial and commercial sites generating such effluent.

Examples include:

  • Restaurants
  • Deli-counters in supermarkets
  • Industrial sites where chemicals are used
  • Quarries
  • Car wash facilities
  • Concrete batching plants
  • Food processors

Categories of Effluent Discharge

The legislation categorises two types of discharge:

1. “to waters” under Section 4 of the 1977 Act, i.e.  

        (a) any (or any part of any) river, stream, lake, canal, reservoir, aquifer, pond, watercourse or  other inland waters, whether natural or artificial,

        (b) any tidal waters, and

        (c) where the context permits, any beach, river bank and salt marsh or other area which is contiguous to anything mentioned in (a) or (b), and the channel or bed of anything mentioned in (a) which is for the time being dry.

This type of discharge is more frequently encountered in rural areas and enforcement of the legal provisions is undertaken wholly by local authorities.

2. “to sewer” under Section 16 of the 1977 Act, including treatment or disposal works.

This type of discharge is more frequently encountered in urban areas or rural areas with sewer networks and enforcement of the legislative provisions is shared by local authorities and Irish Water.

Why Regulate Effluent Discharge?

  • Any discharge of effluent to waters is a discharge to nature itself and as such, it is important for environmental reasons, to ensure that such discharges do not have an adverse impact on ecosystems, food chains, agriculture, etc.
  • Any discharge of effluent to sewers will pass through a waste water treatment plant but it is critical that content of the discharge does not compromise the efficiency of the sewerage system itself as any blockage can have significant health and financial implications. The high density of food service establishments in urban areas, particularly in central business districts, means that there is significant generation of fats, oils and greases (FOGs) in such areas.

In recent decades, local authorities in Limerick have had to attend to frequent and costly sewer blockages, attributable to fats, oils and greases.  

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The Regulatory Framework

The 1977 Act and successor legislation, commonly referred to as the Water Pollution Acts 1977 to 2007 prohibit discharges to waters or to sewers unless under and in accordance with a licence granted by the sanitary authority in which the sewer is vested or by which it is controlled.

The licencing regime allows for the setting of conditions relating to the:

  • composition, volume, frequency and nature of the discharged liquid
  • management of the generation process
  • interception of and pre-removal of certain pollutants
  • monitoring of discharge
  • auditing and inspection by sanitary authorities
  • and any other relevant considerations

Licences for discharges to waters continue to be issued by the local authorities such as Limerick City & County Council while licences for discharges to sewers have been issued by Irish Water, in consultation with local authorities, since January, 2014.

At present, as well as those relating to discharges to waters, local authorities also enforce the provisions of the legislation, relating to discharges to sewers under a service level agreement with  Irish Water.

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Administration of Discharge Licencing

The table below summarises the demarcation in the licencing and enforcement processes under the current service level agreement between local authorities and Irish Water.

Process Stage Discharge to Waters Discharge to Sewers
Applications for licences
Issue of, or refusal to issue licences
Appeals against decisions
Issue of revised licences
Legal proceedings for alleged offences
Local Authority Irish Water
Assessment of licence applications
Auditing and inspections
Recommendations for issuing of new or revised licences
Local Authority Local Authority (in consultation with Irish Water)

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Application forms

To initiate an application to Irish Water for a licence to discharge to sewers click here.

To download an application form for a licence to discharge to ground waters click here.

To download an application form for a licence to discharge to surface waters click here.

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Contact Information

For further information regarding Discharge to Waters

Phone: +353 61 556000
Email: dischargelicences@limerick.ie

For further information regarding Discharge to Sewers

Phone: +353 61 556000
Email: customerservices@limerick.ie

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The Shannon Estuary Anti-Pollution Team (SEA-PT)

Limerick City and County Council is an equal shareholder in the Shannon Estuary Anti-Pollution Team (SEA-PT) Ltd.

The shareholders include the

  • Shannon-Foynes Port Company
  • Local authorities from Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry
  • Major port users in the Shannon Estuary
  • Oil importers

SEA-PT Ltd. has evolved to provide a unified coordinated regional response to pollution incidents on the Shannon Estuary and each member contributes an annual subvention to cover the costs of:

  • Providing pollution response equipment and support craft. This equipment is then available to any member responding to a pollution incident or threat
  • Maintaining the above
  • Organising and staging annual ‘scenario’ exercises
  • Providing classroom-based training for employees of all shareholders,
  • The development and regular maintenance of an
  • Oil Spill Tracking Model
  • Geographic Information System
  • Environmental Atlas
  • Sensitivity Study
  • Oil Spill Response Strategy
  • Hydrocarbon Baseline Study and Emergency Response Plans for the estuarial region

In recent years, the grouping has registered as a limited company with the directors drawn from both the public body and private industry shareholders.

While the committee of SEA-PT is composed of pollution officers representing the members, each constituent local authority continues to have primary responsibility for water pollution matters in its functional area..

When there are pollution incidents on any of Limerick’s waterways, the Council, has the option of deploying SEA-PT equipment and seeking advice and mutual aid from other members, but it may also chose to react within the scope of its own resources.

For further information about Shannon Estuary Anti Pollution Team click here.

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Water Pollution Legislation

Please use the following links to obtain further information on water pollution legislation from the electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB) website.

  • The Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977 - Click here.
  • The Local Government (Water Pollution) Regulations, 1978 - Click here.
  • The Local Government (Water Pollution) Regulations, 1992 - Click here.
  • The Sea Pollution Act, 1991 - Click here.
  • The Sea Pollution (Amendment) Act, 1999 - Click here.
  • The Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2006 - Click here.

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