Monitoring Environmental Resilience in Northern Ireland: The Importance of Legislation in Managing Wastewater Discharges Impact on the Environment

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Modernisation of treated discharges and their disposal is crucial to effectively manage water quality to protect public health and the natural environment. This poster discusses pollution within the Neagh-Bann River basin, Northern Ireland (NI), and considers the imperative role of government policy in sustaining robust water monitoring practices for the discharge of wastewater to surface waters. It also reviews the occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in the United Kingdom (UK). Regulations from the European Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) are transposed into NI law for continued operation of legislation post-Brexit, and include a ‘Watch List’ of priority CECs such as ubiquitous, persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic substances (uPBTs), and antimicrobials contributing to Antimicrobials Resistance (AMR). October 2022 saw a proposal for the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (1991/271/EEC) with new demands on systematic monitoring of AMR, among other reforms. However, reference data is needed to inform these policies. Clear surveillance thresholds, with timescales, are markedly absent from current legislation. Furthermore, studies of NI waterway quality are limited, and their comprehensive investigation is often neglected by UK-wide reports. A case study of nutrient pollution in the Neagh-Bann River basin is presented, and preliminary findings revealed indications of pollution, where physio-chemical testing results were in breach of legislative standards. Most recent reports have also shown that all NI waterbodies failed to achieve “good” quality status, a decrease from 33% of waterbodies achieving “good” quality status in 2015. This is despite goals set in 2015 by government advisors to improve overall quality by the end of 2021, highlighting the need and relevance for further research in this area.
This work addresses contaminant detection gaps and challenges associated with outdated infrastructure, which hinders progress toward Sustainable Development Goals. As urban and industrial discharges metamorphose to the 21st century, wastewater management and monitoring must become proactive.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Mar 2024
Event34th Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium - SETU, Waterford, Ireland
Duration: 25 Mar 202427 Mar 2024
Conference number: 34


Conference34th Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium
Abbreviated titleEnviron 2024
Internet address


  • Wastewater treatment
  • Water
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Water Framework Directive


Dive into the research topics of 'Monitoring Environmental Resilience in Northern Ireland: The Importance of Legislation in Managing Wastewater Discharges Impact on the Environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this