High Quality Environment Vital for Sligo
Sligo County Council’s Senior Engineer, Environmental Services, John McHugh addressess the main issues concerning the protection of our environment.
- John McHugh
How critical an issue is the environment to the people of Sligo?The Council is very conscious that the highest possible quality environment is important to the citizens of Sligo and to existing and potential employers. Sligo is fortunate in enjoying a very high quality environment. This makes Sligo a more attractive place to live and to invest in. However, we need to be very aware that the pressures that will result from the current growth of this gateway city, and the movement towards a population of 50,000, will undoubtedly impact significantly on this environment. This will require vigilance by all.
With the pressures of a growing population, how do we maintain the high quality of our rivers and lakes?95% of our rivers are classified as being pollution free. This figure is well above the national average. All 13 of Sligo’s lakes, including lakes from which water is abstracted for drinking purposes, have satisfactory water quality. However, some downward trends have been observed. The appearance of algae on Lough Arrow and Lough Gill in recent years is an indication of over-enrichment. However, the bottom line is that all our lakes and rivers are extremely vulnerable to pollution, and it is extremely important that land use and discharges are controlled carefully.
We carry out an extensive programme of monitoring our lakes and rivers each year in co-operation with the Environmental Protection Agency. Such monitoring enables us to observe trends and to highlight areas which might need particular attention. We have our own modern laboratory at Cleveragh Business Park, where the required quality testing can be carried out. This helps us to ensure a rapid response to any changes in water quality.
How do Sligo County Council ensure high standards of drinking water and bathing water?Drinking water quality in Sligo continues to meet the highest possible standards. The scientific staff carry out regular testing of all public supplies to ensure compliance with the highest drinking water standards. Again most of the analysis is carried out in our own modern laboratory.
In terms of bathing water quality, we curr-ently have three blue flag beaches at Mullaghmore, Rosses Point and Enniscrone, and these are an extremely important part of our tourism and leisure infrastructure. While our bathing water quality continues to be well above average, problems have been experienced in the past, and at various times both Mullaghmore and Enniscrone have lost their Blue Flag status. Again, this points to the need for vigilance from everybody to ensure that all possible sources of pollution are eliminated.
In addition to the Blue Flag Beaches, the Council also provides a Beachguard service at Dunmoran and Streedagh. Again, Sligo is very fortunate in having so many safe beaches as well as the excellent surfing facilities at Easkey and Strandhill.
What are the priorities for Sligo in relation to management of our waste?Waste Management policy is set out in the Connaught Waste Management Plan 2006- 2011 which was adopted in May 2006. The plan re-emphasises the targets to be achieved by 2013 in order to comply with the National and EU standards. These require that 48% of waste be recycled, 33% thermally treated and 19% landfilled.
Sligo is both fortunate and unfortunate in not having its own landfill. The absence of a landfill means that we do not have to deal with the environmental issues which arise from the management of such a facility. On the other hand Sligo’s waste has to be transported to Mayo or Galway, and this adds significantly to the cost of disposal.
Over the past 5 years significant progress has been made in relation to the recycling of household waste and the percentage of household waste recycled has increased from 4% in 2001 to approximately 25% in 2006. It will now be necessary to focus on the commercial and industrial sectors in order to increase recycling in these areas.
The increases achieved in recycling have to be balanced with the continued growth in the generation of waste which has unfortunately been a feature of our economic growth in recent years. In the Connaught region the amount of domestic waste generated has increased by 17% over the last 6 years, while commercial/industrial waste has increased by over 200%! It is clear therefore that waste prevention and reduction is a clear priority for everyone.
If you would like to find out more about Sligo County Council’s environmental services, please contact the staff at Unit 9, Cleveragh Business Park, Sligo on 071 9111902.
© Sligo County Council,
County Hall, Riverside,
Sligo, Co. Sligo.