Water Scheme


The most important Threat to the River at the moment is the Wicklow County Council’s Water Supply Scheme which will abstract large quantity of water from the groundwater surrounding the river.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have cautioned that the abstraction rate exceeds the recharge rate (water coming into the system).  This means the water has to come from somewhere and that would be the River Vartry.  Many of the local residents are objecting to this on the simple basis that there must be an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) made prior to us being asked to object to such a plan.  This is in the area of a sensitive Ecosystem and as such, is subject to an EU mandatory EIA.  The more people that object, the stronger the case.  Below is some excerpts from one of the residents objection.  Objections are free.  All you need to do is go to the Wicklow County Council offices and bring them a letter of objection marked as it states on the home page.

The Wicklow County Council (WCC) has done an EIA for the Greystone’s Harbour which is a far less sensitive EcoSystem and the Murrough developments according to the WCC’s own study (see the important links “Environmental Scoping Study”) states the following:
“In summary, given the environmental sensitivity of the receiving environment an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be prepared for this development, having regard to the ‘Guidelines on the Information to be contained in Environmental Impact Statements’ published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2002 and ‘Advice Notes on Current Practice in the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements’, also published by the EPA in 2003. An application for a Foreshore Licence should also be submitted to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. “

The River Vartry is the source of the water for the Broadloughs and is EU Protected, the highest status that can be given to an area.  It is mandatory for an EIA to be conducted before the public are asked to object.

There are really two parts to objecting on this scheme because the Wicklow County Council has issued Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) for digging the wells and running the pipes.  These CPOs go before the An Bord Pleanala for a ruling on them.  Objections at An Bord Pleanala were closed on the 2nd of February and were primarily for those subjects of the CPOs.

However if you would like to ask An Bord Pleanala to intercede with the Wicklow County Council and insist on an EIA, you need to write to An Bord Pleanala expressing that wish.  In Important Documents there is one there from the Friends of the Murrough which can be your guide but please address your own concerns.

As a summary of objection points here are some:
• The dates shown on the site notice, publication in the paper and official notification are flawed (Feb. 13th 2008) and inconsistent (22/01/2001).  This in itself requires that the whole plan be re-issued giving people proper opportunity and notice to object.

• Wicklow County Council are interfering with the valuable assets in the Riparian Rights of those of us that have property on the River Vartry.  These rights guarantee that no one will restrict the flow,  pollute the water, alter the course of the river, or take more water that will unfairly affect others with Riparian Rights.  By taking water downstream of a Riparian owner, you are endangering Salmon traveling due to pooling and also interfering with our rights.  By abstraction upstream of owners, you are reducing the water available to them.  This must be negotiated and agreement sought prior to any plan or permissions. We are entitled to compensation and the Wicklow County Council is liable to single or collective action against them for not seeking our approval or agreeing on compensation before starting this project.

• Neither the Draft Source Protection Study or the Final Source Protection Study has been made available to the public prior to this Plan 8.  In fact, the Wicklow County Council has decided to use the Freedom of Information process as an obstruction by forcing an Appeal to that decision, moving the date of receiving the document after the deadline for this objection.  This is a Public Document, paid for with public money under a public contract.  There is nothing confidential, but it is obviously damaging to the Wicklow County Councils case for the Plan 8 Scheme.  Not providing this information is unacceptable since there are many more objections that would be coming from those that will be adversely affected by falling under the Source Protection Area.  This should never have been started without the full information available.  You cannot say that the Wicklow County Council have given the public a fair opportunity to object and therefore the requirement for this on the part of Wicklow County Council has not been fulfilled.

• According to the Hydrogeological Report by GES Ltd.,  The 7/11 day test drew water at a rate of 2,609,385 million meter cube per year.  In absence of Maximum figures which are not available in the plan, these figures should be used since they represent actual abstraction rates already taken.  This places the scheme well above the Sub-Threshold for groundwater abstraction and makes an EIA, without question, mandatory.

• According to EIA directives the project must have both present and future levels of abstraction specified. This is especially necessary in EIA screening.

•  The Wicklow County Council has not been completely open and transparent in its definitions of levels for all the wells. Phrases like “The exact level of supply will be subject to the results from the production well drilling and testing” and “the level of the supply will be subject to findings from ongoing monitoring studies” do not define anything.

• Further evidence is given for a mandatory EIA based on three EU Scoping issues in EPA Guidelines_eis_2002 pg 13 3.1.1 Screening.
a)Two protected sensitive Ecosystems, the River Vartry and the Broadloughs, are at risk and this is supported by GES ltd. Study.
b)GES Ltd. supports the unpredictability of determining the groundwater vs. surface water abstraction and the lack of data during drought.
c)There is significant level of concern by the public.  Objections have been received from An Taisce, Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, comments by the EPA, Friends of the Murrough, River Vartry Protection Society, Éamon de Buitléar, and individual members of the public.

It is our contention that an EIA is mandatory. Not even an informal Environmental Assessment has been done by any independent body and no information has been offered to the public as if the area were not a Sensitive Environment. The well tests that are a basis for this study were conducted in August where Met Eireann reports “It was the wettest August on record at a number of stations, including Dublin (Phoenix Park) where rainfall records began in 1837”. There is contained here, conclusive proof that the EIA is required both under EC legislation and Irish Law. The fact that Wicklow County Council is the originator of the project, only enforces the case for an EIA, not exempt them from it.

• The Wicklow County Council cannot cut into the roadway over the Nun’s Cross Bridge without doing an EIA prior to this to determine as to whether the 1700s Bridge will be damaged.

This is an Annex II project (guidance_sub-threshold_development page 4 and 5) and as stated in section 3.3 sub-Thresholds apply. In section 3.5 and 3.6 it further requires an EIA where the development would likely have significant effects on the environment, and a conservation sensitive area. The sub-Threshold for Groundwater abstraction under Annex II is stated as 2 million cubic meters (epa_advice_on_eis_2003 page 41 10.l).

The Wicklow County Council’s declared figures amount to 1.3 million cubic meters in the Plan. Since the real figures are not disclosed, this appears to be a design that has been made to fall below the mandatory EIA level. The 7/11 days trials already pumped at rates in excess of 2.6 million cubic meters per year and figure would exceed the Sub-Threshold.

We believe that the proposed wells are intended to provide water above the level for Annex II mandatory EIA, but disregarding that the Wicklow County Council need to determine the necessity for an EIA using criteria (such as site sensitivity) (epa_guidelines_eis_2002 page viii paragraph 3).

The Guidelines for EIA (epa_guidelines_eis_2002 page 13 3.1.1 Screening) clearly state that the EIA is mandatory if any of the 4 questions are answered “Yes”. Three of the four conditions apply to this project and are answered “Yes” and there is little doubt of this. Can anyone there at the Wicklow County Council deny this?

If there is someone who would like to challenge point 8 then please consider the results of the (EPA’s Water Balance Test.) This clearly shows that the River is at risk. The levels of the river will be affected. Remember that this was done with only 2 of the 7 wells in the calculation. This is absolute proof that a full EIA is required.

EU checklist for mandatory EIA page 19 B4.3 can be filled in by anyone according to the best information available and is further proof of the need for an EIA.

The Murrough Costal Protection Study page 42 paragraph 2), prepared by the Wicklow County Council declares the necessity for a full EIA “given the environmental sensitivity of the receiving environment”.  In the Water Scheme we are dealing with a far more sensitive and complex Ecosystem that includes the Broad Lough and the Murrough since the River is the source of water entering the system.  The status of the River Vartry far exceeds that of the Murrough in being a EU protected Salmon River.

• The Wicklow County Council decided that the Greystone’s Harbour was equally sensitive and decided that an EIA was necessary.  Again this is a simple Ecosystem in comparison to the River Vartry.

There are several issues with the plan itself that already expose weaknesses that might become apparent in an EIA.

Ballinahinch Wells –

1) Location

a) The Road is totally unsuitable for construction traffic and the entrance to the site very dangerous.

b) The Wells PW4 and PW5 are 180 and 240 meters respectively from the edge of the river.

c) There is a private sewer that runs from Bramble Glade Estates to the main sewer at River Walk across the Well sites. It runs within 90 meters of the PW4 well.

d) There is a main sewer on the road within 80 meters of both well sites.

e) The location of the wells is adjacent to a new Wicklow County Council housing development with the highest density thus far in Ashford, permeable paving and gardens which can contain serious poisons.

f) PW4 is just below a protected thatched cottage with a great likelihood of an old cesspit.

g) The two wells are on the flood plain. The PW4 well will be subject to flooding in a reasonable flood event being only 180 meters laterally from the edge of the river.

h) The road dips down by the entrance to the estate and this will be a cause of constant flooding into the Source Protection Area. We have had several oil spillages exactly at the gates to the estate, because it is a dipping bend behind two blind bends.

2) The Total Impact area has not been outlined by the plan. This will affect the use of the land and have adverse conditions for the residents of these areas. This must be defined and what conditions are to be applied to protect the wells.

3) What is the liability of Land Owners in the area who through negligence or accident or simply inadvertently pollute the water source?  How do ELD Directives change this?  Can the Wicklow County Council be held responsible for this?  If not, then included must be risk assessments for the landowners.

4) Was Stepdown testing undertaken?

5) Although the development at Ballinahinch is almost complete and long since been added to the planning maps, surprisingly this housing estate has not been shown on the plans used for the Wells. This is essential knowledge for anyone making a complaint, since well PW5 is within 10 meters of the side of the Terrace of the social and affordable estate.

6) Source protection area not defined.

7) In the LAP for Ashford states that “A maximum of 100 residential units at a Max Density of 10 houses per Hectare may be provided.  This was fought by a substantial amount of local residents, as it is the flood plain of the Vartry.  PW5 is located on the land of McCarthy Kelly Partnership who pressed for increased housing and density.  There will be “high density housing all over the area of the well.  Source protection will be impossible in a city centre area.  This is the most productive well listed of all 7 and it will be in an urban setting.

8) Out of all the wells, the most productive is PW5.  Out of all the wells, the closest to the River is well PW5.  This is not a coincidence.   It further substantiates the obvious, that by placing a well on an undisputed flood plain, you will damage the River.

Nun’s Cross Wells –

1) Location

a) These wells are on a working farm and will prevent these farmers from farming in their normal way.

b) There may be cesspits on the surrounding properties that need changing.

c) The route of the pipe includes traversing the Nun’s Cross Bridge and the support Buttresses dating from 1700. This location is closest to the oldest arch of the bridge made of only mud and slate. Endangering the oldest part of the bridge with pounding, vibration and large digging equipment cannot be done without having a proper analysis done.

d) During the “exploratory phase” the pipe was planned over the full bridge, but objected to that to the on-site Consultant.  The Consultants decided on a less controversial solution which is to traverse the approach and then turn through the Tottenham’s property and across the river directly.  This will still potentially compromise the bridge, the butresses, foundations and the first and oldest arch.

e) These wells are in close proximity to the road and will be subject to runoff or spillage.

f) The full impact area and restrictions are not shown.  This greatly affects the Tottenham’s and will likely prevent them from further farming, as they have done since the 1600s.  This should be specified prior to submission of the Plan 8 and CPOs associated.

2) The well yield specified in the plan makes the abstraction from these wells totally uneconomical. The cost to the public and the interference with the landowners do not justify 1000 cubic meters of water per day from three wells.

3) Source Protection Area not defined.

Milltown Wells –

1) Source Protection Area not defined.

2) There are working farms above the wellfield and all around it. These are some of our oldest resident farmers. How much are they going to be restricted by having it in their area?

3) It is shocking to realise that these two wells are located directly above Mount Usher Garden our most important Tourist location. This will, without doubt, have a negative effect on the groundwater necessary to maintain the Gardens. A poorer location could not have been chosen.

This planning application is flawed in it conception, and in its implementation by incorrect advertising and site notices.  It will have to be re-issued and opened again for submissions.  The public will be better informed and there will be even more objections.  We do not want or encourage the Wicklow County Council to just re-issue this same scheme, but go to An Bord Pleanala and request that an EIA be conducted.
We are asking the Wicklow County Council to withdraw this plan 8 application, remove the CPOs from An Bord Pleanala and according to EU and Irish Legislation, perform a EIA with the competent Authorities approved by  the EPA and the Eastern Region Fisheries Board according to Irish Legislation.  The EIS should be produced and given to the community of those concerned for this Ecosystem in ample time to view and consult with the Wicklow County Council and their own experts, should we wish.  We expect that such a project should be done in the full light of the public with a solution that is in harmony with the area, the people, the fish, the animals and the Environment.