Uisce Éireann, the utility formerly known as Irish Water, has issued an urgent appeal to the dairy industry to refrain from disposing of large quantities of milk into the wastewater network. The improper disposal of milk has the potential to cause significant harm to the environment and wastewater infrastructure. While this is not currently a widespread issue in Ireland, there have been localized incidents, particularly in County Cork.
One such incident occurred in Aghabullogue during the spring of this year, where the local wastewater treatment plant received an overwhelming influx of milk, causing operational difficulties with the treatment process. Similar challenges have been experienced in other areas, including Grenagh, Rylane, Kilbrittain, and Dripsey. These incidents have not only posed significant challenges but have also incurred substantial costs for Uisce Éireann.
It is crucial to understand that large quantities of untreated milk can ultimately find their way into receiving waters, leading to a major impact on the local environment. Milk has an extremely high biological oxygen demand, which is ten times higher than cattle slurry and 400 times higher than domestic sewage. In fact, the environmental impact of a single liter of milk is equivalent to the daily wastewater output of an entire family household.
The disposal of milk into sewers can create a shock load on treatment plants, resulting in pollution and adverse effects on the environment. While Uisce Éireann has previously issued appeals to all parties in the milk industry, there is still a need for improvement. Paddy O’Dwyer, the wastewater source control lead, expressed his concerns, stating, “We continue to witness incidents where large quantities of milk are being disposed of into the wastewater network. This is particularly common during the spring and summer months and places significant strain on Uisce Éireann’s wastewater infrastructure.”
O’Dwyer emphasized the magnitude of the issue, clarifying that it is not a matter of pouring a couple of liters of milk down the drain. Instead, it is the disposal of substantial amounts of milk that must be done appropriately. He urged everyone associated with the milk industry to be mindful of the impact this can have on wastewater networks and treatment plants and stressed the importance of disposing of milk and other products correctly.
Large quantities of milk should be disposed of either in slurry pits or at licensed waste facilities. O’Dwyer called upon everyone involved in the industry to raise awareness about the potential damage caused by pouring significant volumes of milk down the drain.
The appeal from Uisce Éireann serves as a reminder to the dairy industry to prioritize responsible waste management practices. By taking the necessary precautions and disposing of milk appropriately, the industry can help safeguard the environment and maintain the efficiency of wastewater treatment plants.