The Environmental Sustainability & Health Institute (ESHI) in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and Fingal County Council have established a new research initiative to protect our natural waterways and deliver a healthy Ireland.

The Fingal Water Project will tackle the challenges of pollution pressures in ponds and streams in this strategic local authority area of nearly 300,000 people in north County Dublin.

Dr Alan Gilmer, the lead on the project for DIT, explains, “Water quality in many parts of Ireland is under threat, particularly in areas where industrial activity and population densities are high. What you do with water affects land, air quality and ultimately human health, it’s all inter-connected.”

He goes on to explain that pollution in our waterways can cause algal blooms, large growths of algae that suffocate streams and stream-life. Additionally, if fertiliser seeps into a stream or pond, it can create dangerous levels of ammonia in the water, which can affect fish health and supply. Ammonia can also cause Particulate Matter (PM), a mixture of solid and liquid particles that form in the atmosphere as a result of chemical reactions between pollutants, to rise affecting air quality and potentially causing respiratory and lung infections.

This water then flows through the landscape and is discharged to the sea, where it can affect water quality on our beaches and our blue flag demarcations, which has a knock-on effect on local economies and tourism.

Over the next two years, the DIT research team will carry out a systematic assessment of pollutants in ponds and streams in the Fingal area. They will then create a framework for promoting preventative measures to help control the pollutants at source and improve water quality.

Public participation is a key feature. The team will generate 3D models of ponds and streams allowing schools, community groups and the public to see and touch the water-landscape setting, learn about possible pollutants, and discover ideas for protecting their local waterways.

The outcomes of the project could potentially act as a springboard for the advancement of new ways to optimize the management of waterways in Ireland.

The project is commissioned by Fingal County Council in response to new regulations under the EU Water Framework Directive, and a new EU strategy on air quality which requires countries to dramatically reduce PM values.

James Walls, Senior Engineer in the Environment Division, Fingal County Council emphasises the value of better understanding about the pollution pressures in Fingal’s water catchments, “Fingal’s collaborative research initiative with DIT is a valuable opportunity to design a suite of preventative and control measures to assist Fingal in achieving strict water quality standards under the EU Water Framework Directive and provide opportunities for public participation, a key feature of integrated catchment management.”

The interdisciplinary team of researchers at DIT is led by Dr Alan Gilmer of the DIT-ESHI Water Innovation Research Centre in collaboration with Professor John Cassidy, Dr Eugene McGovern and Dr Vivienne Byers, and PhD students Stephen Barry and Mariya Radomski. This research underscores the DIT focus on partnership and innovation that supports local authorities, local and national industry, and society.

Source: DIT