A local firm is making sure the river Lagan remains odour free in a £2.8m dredging project.
The contract, given to Graham Construction, which created 28 jobs, began in September 2010 and is set to continue into Spring.
Around 300,000 tonnes of silt will be removed from the river using diggers, put on barges and dumped out at sea in an approved site.
Peter Gallagher, the river manager said: “Material is brought down river on barges that hold 40 tonnes to the bigger barge.
“It’s then towed over the weir and into the lough and dumped in the approved site.
“This saves a lot of money, no longer is the waste having to be put on lorries and dumped on land.
“The river can be kept open too, which means leisure and commercial activities are not affected,” he added.
This is the first time the river has been dredged since 1994 when the Lagan Weir was built.
Unlike at that time, the silt removed is inert and does not need to be dumped on land due to its toxicity.
The amount of toxic mud in the river sucked oxygen out of the water and killed off aquatic animals.
Dredging and aeration have increased water quality in the river and seen a salmon run of over 200 fish returning. An otter and seals have followed the fish that now move up river to spawn in what was once an aquatic death trap.
“One thousand metres of pipework for aeration for the fish goes in the river in March,” said Peter Gallagher.
Department of Social Development Minister Alex Attwood , on a visit to the Lagan Weir said: “The dredge really transforms the river, which will help transform the economy here.
“I’m old enough to remember the old river when the tide went out, the smell, the debris like trolleys and cars in the river and muck and residue.
Standing beside a barge he said: “This barge is full of muck and you can’t smell a thing.
“Seals and fish are back and the water is dramatically different.”
The minister said of the economic benefits of the dredge: “We are looking forward after a difficult economic period.
“There are big opportunities on the far side of the recession.
“This is part and parcel for reconfiguring the city of Belfast.
“The river bank walkway becomes a resource for the city and a vehicle to regain the city again,” he added.DSD minister Alex Attwood sniffs in the suprisingly clean aroma of tonnes of Langan silt