Sewage problems making foul-smelling algae blooms more likely, marine expert


September 5th, 2019

A foul-smelling algae bloom on a beach close to the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant this week was made more likely by sewage problems at the facility, a marine expert has said.

Earlier this week, members of the public reported a brown foul-smelling slick
on Shelly Banks and solid material of up to a foot in depth.

Some witnesses told The Irish Times that the smell was
akin to the foul smell of sewage and that toilet paper could be seen on the
waste material. 

An inspection from Dublin City Council earlier this week found that the material was an algae called ectocarpus and found no evidence of sewage discharge. 

Ectocarpus siliculosis tends to produce
an odour similar to that of sewage as it decays, compelling many Dubliners to
contact the Council to express their concern over the previous few months.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water told The Irish Times there were no incidents at the Ringsend plant during the days prior to the bloom that could have resulted in build-up at Shelley Banks.

Speaking to The Green News, however, Karin Dubsky of
Coastwatch Ireland said that more recurring incidences of sewage overflows at the
Ringsend plant has provided a suitable environment for the growth of such
foul-smelling algae.

“More sewage overflows means a higher nutrient content in Dublin bay
waters and hence more food for the brown goo Ectocarpus and bright green Ulva
blooms which we see in the bay today,” added Ms Dubsky, who is also a
researcher at Trinity College Dublin. 

Earlier in the summer, a number of algal blooms were reported along the Dublin
coast, causing closures at several beaches including Sandycove and the Forty

Data released to
shows that untreated wastewater has overflowed into Dublin Bay from Plant near
Poolbeg more than 100 times since 2015. Ms Dubsky warned that the Ringsend
leakage is not the only issue that is deepening the problem.

“It’s not just one big Ringsend discharge as the treatment plant is
struggling, it’s all those smaller stormwater overflows mixed with sewage water
which are discharging right at high watermark onto the shore,” she said. 

Nitrate pollution in water is associated with various ailments including Blue Baby Syndrome, a rare condition affecting infants who ingest nitrates. Recent studies also suggest that ingesting nitrates may contribute to colorectal cancer, thyroid disease and congenital disabilities.  

About the Author

Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.

The post Sewage problems making foul-smelling algae blooms more likely, marine expert appeared first on Green News Ireland.