AN important step to try and improve the water quality of Newcastle’s beaches was taken today ( 16th September) as the six Newcastle Councillors, representatives from Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, and officials from NI Water and the NIEA, sat down at a meeting and examined the complex issue. The meeting was held in the Newcastle Centre.
The meeting was attended by all six Newcastle Councillors ( Carmel O’Boyle, Eamonn O’Neill, Dessie Patterson, Willie Clarke MLA, Stephen Burns and Patrick Clarke), Down Council CEO John Dumigan, Tony McCrory and James Campbell DDC Environment officers, Simon Boyle DDC officer, Audrey Byrne and Jack O’Hare, Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, Jim Watts and Mark Livingston NIEA, and Lisa Hughes, David Sloan and Gordon Smyth of NI Water.
NI Water officials gave an update on the 1500 cubic meter Attenuation Tank in Castle Park. This tank is fully installed but is not operational yet. 90% of the pipework has been installed. But there is a ‘snag’ with NIE who need to provide electricity to the tank. When this happens, hopefully within a few weeks, NI Water can test the pumps and the tank can become operational. This is a sewerage holding tank. Some site work remains to be completed, but all in all, a very successful project costing about £5 – £6 million.
Also, the upgrade of the Water Treatment Works at the Harbour was also discussed. This multi-million pound project is now moving forward and tenders are with NI Water. It is expected that the contract will be awarded around November, with contractors moving onto site almost immediately. Completion date for this part of the project is July 2013.
At a later date, NIW will make presentation to Council to explain how the contract will unfold. Representatives of the NIEA also contributed to the discussion about Water Quality in Newcastle and said that there are 5 ‘at risk’ beaches in Northern Ireland, and Newcastle is not one of them. However, water quality needs to improve, and the above works will help to improve the water quality.
DDC will develop a Project Plan to help move towards Blue Flag Status for Newcastle. Once water quality improves, the water has to be very clean water before we can go for Blue Flag Status. Provision can also be made in the Rates for works that need to be done by Council to complement the NI Water works above. These include improved toilet facilities and lifeguards. Down District Council will be working with Newry and Mourne Council and the RNLI on related matters.
There was also a discussion about recent spills and pollution incidents in the area and NIEA gave information about improvements to local pumping stations.
Down Council has also backed NIW in its ‘Bag it and Bin it’ campaign to discourage people from flushing the wrong things that clog up our sewerage system. Apparently one of the worst things that can be disposed of in our drains is cooking oil, which clog up our sewers.
Cllr Carmel O’Boyle Welcomes Progress On Water Quality Problem in Newcastle
Speaking just after the meeting, Cllr O’Boyle said, “I am delighted that there was such a good turn-out for today’s meeting. Unfortunately no-one from planning was there, because they are a very important piece of the jigsaw.
“On 29th January 2009, a moratorium on building was introduced in Newcastle. While there was a great hue and cry from some developers at the time, I hope that they will see that there was method in what appeared to be madness, when the moratorium was introduced.
“At the time I opposed the wholesale granting of planning permissions for multiple units to be built in Newcastle because of the sorry state of our sewerage infrastructure. While I was criticised at the time, it was this very argument that has resulted in the great news we were given at today’s meeting. Newcastle was moved to the top of the list of towns that needed major improvements to its sewerage and water treatment works.
“The DRD Minister was persuaded to ring-fence almost £14 million for Newcastle, and with the completion of the installation of the holding tank in Castle Park, we are well on our way to providing for the people of Newcastle a top class system. The next step of course is that Newcastle is back in business for development because there will be no further sewerage issues preventing this from happening.
“Above all, we have taken a very important next step in protecting people’s homes and businesses during heavy rain. This, on top of the Burren River Flood Alleviation Scheme that we secured a few years ago at a cost of £6 million, means that we have worked hard for Newcastle.
“Our next challenge will be to achieve Blue Flag Status and to clean up our bathing water. We are already putting plans in place to make sure we are ready to confront the challenges that this will present.
“I am grateful to NIW and to NIEA for attending today’s meeting and for working so closely in partnership with our council to bring this good news to Newcastle,” added Cllr Boyle.