Plans are being drawn up to prevent raw sewage being pumped into the sea in north County Dublin more than a decade after the decision was due to be implemented.

The pipeline, in the picturesque Doldrums Bay on the outskirts of Howth, continues to discharge sewage from 45 local homes into the sea, serving a population of just 120 people.

Activists in the area say that despite the situation, there are not enough visible warnings to the public and visitors to the beach, which is next to a popular coastal walking route, are often seen swimming near the exit. Others gather periwinkles for food.

“Elimination” of the problem

Irish Water, which recently informed the local community of plans to build two new pumping stations, said it plans to apply for planning permission later this year.

“The elimination of emissions in this area is a particularly complex project that requires extensive consultation and design,” the spokesman said. “Constraints included a densely built-up area, the Howth Special Improvement Area order, a special conversation area and a host of technical challenges to overcome beyond most Irish water projects.”

Local Green Party leader David Healy said the pollution was due to be resolved as part of a license agreement relating to the operation of the treatment plant at Ringsend by the end of 2011.

Doldrums Bay is symptomatic of a much wider problem – only 17 out of 50 areas identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have had untreated sewage entering bodies of water over the past 10 years. Irish Water plans to fix the “vast majority” by 2025 and said Doldrums Bay was made a priority after some initial work was carried out seven years ago.

Patrick Jackson, a resident and activist for the school’s Picker Pals initiative for a clean environment, described how sewage was flowing onto the beach itself from an old broken pipe.

“The beach was about 100 square meters, which was just disgusting. There was an old pipe that was simply torn,” he said. About seven years ago he started a campaign to solve the problem, and since then a new pipe extension has caused the sewage to pass the low water mark.

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