THERE are not as many emotive subjects as the ‘s’ word in our civilised society. Sewage has become that dirty word in Ardglass. Local SDLP Councilor Dermot Curran is deeply concerned at the way in which the sewage system is being managed and recent events have added to what many local have described as “just totally unaceptable.”
Councilor Curran explained to Down News that at a recent funeral in Ardglass, a new home in the Whiterock estate experienced a sewer blockage, which happens regularly, and there was a back up overflow of waste and a serious smell resulting also in the home.
Only two hundred yards away on the main Strangford Road, a sewage pipe leaks outside a private home. Children have to walk over this area daily to school, and the smell particularly in the summer is very unpleasant. Is the whole system groaning under pressure from over-usuage, from too many houses being built in the village, or is it just lack of public investment in infrastructure? Or maybe a little public unaccountability thrown in for good measure?
Angry SDLP Councilor Dermot Curran tabled a motion to Down District Council tonight (Monday 28th March calling for the immediate implementation of work to upgrade the Sewerage Treatment plant at Ardglass.
He explained that the sewage system in Ardglass was “not fit for purpose” and added that he had campaigned for a number of years to have it improved to a satisfactory standard. With another almost 80 new homes in two sites planned for Arglass soon, the pressure on the system will only increase once the homes are connected to the mains sewwage system.
The motion to the Council chamber was clear and straight from the shoulder. Councilor Curran said, “I request Council to write to NI Water for urgent action in regard of the continued delay in the provision of an Activated Sludge Plant in Ardglass. The delay is endangering both business and housing development in the area, both of which are essential to ensure the future economic viability of Ardglass and surrounding areas.”
He added, “Ardglass has been suffering for a number of years at the hands of the DRD Water Service. Some years ago it was announced that the Sewerage Treatment Works could no longer meet the demands of the town and that an upgrade was needed to ensure the viability of the coastal location. At that stage, we were advised that money was ring-fenced for the project and negotiations were taking place with the landlords. Some four years on, the story remains the same.
“Residents and business people across Ardglass have endured much heartache, especially those living in the Crew Hill and Whiterock estates where sewage has actually been backing up into peoples’ homes. It has also been overflowing from manholes on the Strangford and Ardtole Roads within Ardglass.
“This is a very serious situation and we are now at crisis point. Not only is this a huge inconvenience for the people of Ardglass but it also poses a major risk to public health. I firmly believe that the ratepayers of the Ardglass area have been very patient with the Department; however this patience is wearing out.
“I had been looking forward to NI Water appearing in front of Council to answer such questions but they failed to attend the February meeting of the Council External Affairs Committee.
“Following representations to NI Water, I have now been advised that the land acquisition negotiations in respect of Ardglass have failed and land will now be vested thus delaying the scheme a further 12 months which will then be followed by an 18-month construction period. At the very best, the sewerage treatment plant will not be upgraded until October 2013.
“This is completely unacceptable. Surely if land needed to be vested this process should have commenced some time ago in order to prevent such further delays.”
Councillor Curran said Ardglass and the surrounding area needs urgent assistance and added that It was evident that the NI Water Officials who have been handling this matter have “dragged their heals greatly, or are perhaps lacking supervision.”
He said, “I therefore call on this Council to write to the Department stressing their complete discontent at the lack of progress and also condemn the Water Service for failing to attend a meeting of Down District Council despite repeated invitations.”
Councillor John Doris who seconded the motion said, “At present NI Water is breaching an EU Directive, as sewage which is not fully treated is being pumped into the sea at the North Dock, the Watch House, Sheepland Harbour and Ballyhornan. We are living in the 21st Century and such actions are completely unacceptable.
“I am also shocked at NI Water’s lack of attendance at Council meetings. Surely as Civil Servants, representatives from NI Water should be present at a full meeting of Council to answer and interact with Council members. A further letter must be sent to NI Water insisting on their attendance.”
NI Water Replies
A spokesperson for NI Water said, “The sewerage infrastructure within any new development is normally built by the developer of that site and responsibility for this lies with them until NI Water adopts the network. However, guidelines need to be met for NI Water to formally adopt the sewers.”
Regarding the Ardglass WWTW situated in Ardtole, NI Water, said, ” NI Water is investing £2.25 million to upgrade the Ardglass Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW). Negations on land acquisition are currently ongoing, but at an advanced stage. NI Water intends commencing work when land acquisition is complete.
“NI Water strives to comply with all current NIEA and EU standards for any discharges. The new Ardglass WwTW will provide additional treatment to ensure compliance with future standards. Also, the new WwTW has been designed to provide appropriate treatment for current and future demand in the area. Currently, NI Water is recommending connections to the system in any planning application it is consulted on.”
And the spokesperson added that, “There are no major sewerage pipelines or pumping station upgrades within NI Water’s Capital Works Programme in the Ardglass area.”
In effect, Ardglass cannot grow any bigger unless its sewage infrastructure matches it. If it is stretched at the moment, it may be close to or is breaking EU compliance and could face heavy fines.
Other Councillors rallied in support of the motion which was carried unanimously. Ardglass has an indigeous fishing and processing industry and its reputation could be thratened overnight with the outbreak of a disease caused by the inadequate sewage system. Councilor Curran said, “I will be seeking a meeting with the Minister come the new Assembly over this issue. Something needs to be done urgently.”