Dumping of raw sewage from Belfast in an area of outstanding natural beauty near Limavady looks set to continue despite a delegation from the local council meeting with the Environment Minister this week to press for an end to the practice.
The arrangement was initially supposed to be temporary after a plant in Duncrue fell into disrepair, but a year later lorryloads of sewage are still being transported to a site on the Broad Road outside Limavady, leaving a stench in the air which deters tourists, councillors claim.
The Limavady plant is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but UUP councillor Jack Rankin said he gets calls daily about the smell.
He said: “This is becoming a real deterrent for people, especially tourists, because there are days, and Monday this week was one of them, when the smell is so bad it makes your eyes water.
“Schoolchildren doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards use this area and it used to be a favourite for hill walkers because it is part of the Foyle Basin and has views across to Donegal.
“It really is quite something, but no-one can come here if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.”
SDLP councillor Michael Coyle was part of a cross-party delegation that travelled from Limavady to Stormont on Monday to discuss the situation with the DoE Minister Alex Attwood, but there was little in the way of good news.
While NI Water is responsible for the transfer of sludges, the company said it did not transfer any to the Limavady plant and added that this was done by a private company. Mr Coyle said this was an example of NI Water distancing itself from the problem.
In a statement NI Water said: “The operating contractor took over sludge disposal operations in March 2010.
“Both old and new incinerators were shut down in November 2010 in order to be further upgraded and comply with regulatory air emission requirements, involving a period of substantial capital investment.
“NI Water’s operating contractor will consider all available alternative disposal routes in such circumstances.
“NI Water does not currently transfer sludges to the Broad Road facility — it is under contract to deliver wastewater sludges to incinerator operations at Belfast, which is now operated by a private sector contractor on its behalf.”