Anger over sewage pollution
Raw sewage entering waterways due to lack of development of wastewater treatment facilities in the Nenagh Municipal District is frustrating and angering local councillors.
Speaking at the September meeting of the district authority, councillors raised concerns about lack of treatment capacity and other problems in plants in Borrisokane, Silvermines, Newport, Ballina and Cloughjordan.
Cllr Seamus Morris said the sewage treatment plant in Silvermines was “literally a septic tank”. Because of capacity issues there was “stuff going into the local river”.
He said the plant at Ballina was currently over capacity and catering for sewage from 1,700 properties above the limit for which it was designed.
“And we have a plant in Cloughjordan that is something similar,” he added, asking what procedures are in place at overloaded plants to ensure raw sewage was not entering rivers and lakes.
Cllr Ger Darcy said a lot of development was being stalled in Cloughjordan at present due to the inability of the sewage treatment plant there to cope with additional inflows of sewage.
“I know I’m rattling on about this all the time, but I have to because Cloughjordan has come on in leaps and bounds over the past ten years,” he said.
“We need to make sure that this issue is kept in front of Irish Water all the time.”
Cllr Joe Hannigan said that while there was still some capacity in the waste treatment plant in Borrisokane, he urged that upgrade works take place as it was operating at close to capacity.
‘IT’S A DISGRACE’
Cllr John ‘Rocky’ McGrath said the treatment plant in Silvermines “was without doubt the oldest in north Tipperary, if not Tipperary”. He felt the council was getting “a slack” response from Irish Water in relation to the problems with the plant. “It’s a disgrace to see leakages from the plant.”
Cllr McGrath said the plant had been in operation since the 1950s; concrete only lasted so long before seepages began to occur.
Cllr Phyll Bugler said the contract for the upgrade of the treatment plant in Ballina had not yet been signed. “We need to put some pressure on because there seems to be some slippage.”
Senior Engineer Gerry Robinson said planned upgrades on treatment plants in both Ballina and Newport were on schedule. The contracts for these works were due to be awarded at the end of the month. Giving the successful tender time to make all preparations, it would probably be the end of the year or early next year before works would commence. The proposal was to start first on the upgrade of the plant in Ballina.
Mr Robinson said upgrade works for the wastewater treatment plant in Nenagh were also on schedule. The plan was to have a contractor on site by the last quarter of 2023.
Mr Robinson said Irish Water had been made fully aware about issues in relation to the plants in Silvermines and Cloughjordan. The company had indicated that it had no funds in its capital programme to carry out works on the two plants at present.
Asked by Cllr Morris if alarm systems were in place for overflows from the sewage treatment plants that were operating at or over capacity, Mr Robinson said there was no such systems in place. He said there was a recent incident in Borrisokane were sewage entered the local river.
Mr Robinson said staff visited each treatment plant every day of the week, including weekends, to check for problems. But not everything was perfect and there were issues. The issue in Borrisokane had led to “slight discolouration in the river” and the source of the problem had since been resolved.
Cllr Morris said he was shocked to learn that there were no alarm systems operating in the four plants in the Nenagh District that were operating at over capacity. It was “quite shocking and reckless from Irish Water’s point of view” that raw sewage could enter rivers because no alarms were in place.
Council Director for Water Services, Eamon Lonergan, said the drought sparked by hot and dry weather in August and early September had posed significant challenges for staff looking after sewage treatment plants. The work being put in by council staff was phenomenal. They worked in a very difficult environment as there was under investment in many plants. “And with climate change we are seeing things getting very difficult for us, and I want to thank the staff that do work on these plants.”
Meanwhile, addressing concerns about contamination with cryptosporidium last year in the water supply in Borrisokane, Mr Robinson told Cllr Joe Hannigan that ultra-violent treatment had been permanently installed in the local treatment plant to kill the organism. He said Irish Water was now planning to roll out ultra-violent treatment in all water plants in Tipperary.
Cllr Hannigan expressed concern over the imminent transfer of water services staff from the council to Irish Water. He felt a huge amount of expertise and knowledge was going to be lost by the local authority.