The Environmental Protection Agency has called for a substantial and sustained increase in investment in public waste water treatment infrastructure to protect public health and the environment on foot of substantial discharges of raw sewage last year.

The EPA's 2015 Urban Waste Water Treatment Report details a litany of failures and problems with sewage treatment all over the country.

Twenty-nine large towns and cities including Ringsend, Cork city, Cobh, Youghal, Enniscorthy, Arklow, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Clifden and many more failed to meet mandatory EU sewage standards, the deadline for which was ten years ago.

Untreated sewage is being dumped into the sea and rivers in 43 places, including Rush and Howth in Dublin, An Spideál and An Cheathrú Rua in Galway, Kilmore Quay in Wexford, ten locations in Cork, and 11 in Donegal.

The EPA says it is unacceptable that the timetable tackling the discharges from 20 of these areas has already slipped by almost two years. 

The agency says the current level of capital investment is simply not enough to tackle the infrastructural deficiencies and investment running €100m per year below the average spent between 2000 and 2011.

The report found that waste water from 45 areas was linked to river pollution and that sewage discharges contributed to poor quality bathing water at six popular beaches including Merrion Strand, Youghal Front Strand and Duncannon.

It also found that 16 waste water schemes require improvements to protect the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel.

EPA programme manager David Flynn said an additional €100 million a year needs to be invested in waste water infrastructure.

He said there has been a legacy of "decades of under investment in the system".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Flynn said that at least €280m to €300m a year, for the next five to seven years, needs to be invested.

He said that while enormous progress has been made since 2000, in comparison to the rest of Europe, Ireland is lagging behind.

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