Work to resolve an overwhelming stench from a sewage works near Holywood — so bad that nearby workers have been sent home after reporting feeling sick — isn’t due to begin before next spring.
North Down councillor Andrew Muir has raised concerns that residents and workers near Kinnegar Lagoons face another smelly summer due to hold-ups in a £3.5m upgrade of the sewage treatment plant.
The Alliance councillor says the stench has been particularly acute in recent weeks as it is exacerbated by warm weather and after heavy rainfall — both of which we have had in abundance.
He is now in the process of tabling questions at the European Parliament. “The Kinnegar Lagoons are now seriously polluted with the water black and no wildlife to be seen. Nearby workers have reported being sent home after feeling sick due to the odour,” he said.
Responding to a written Assembly question, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy revealed that Northern Ireland Water will not be starting work on the upgrade of Kinnegar Lagoons until the end of this financial year — next spring.
“I have been advised by Northern Ireland Water (NIW) that it is developing a project to resolve the sewage pollution at Kinnegar Lagoons, Holywood,” he said.
“NIW anticipates that construction will commence at the end of this financial year and work will take 12 months to complete.”
Councillor Muir said he had been campaigning on the issue since 2010 and a solution was promised by this summer. He questioned why Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has not carried out any enforcement action against NIW since January 2010.
“Whilst I welcome the funding commitment, progress in terms of implementing a solution has been far too slow.
“It seems that an acceptable level of pollution exists in Northern Ireland and without strong enforcement action by the Department of the Environment.”
NIEA said it had investigated several substantiated polluting discharges in 2009 and 2010 from the Kinnegar network and had issued NIW with a warning letter in August 2010.
“NIW has responded to the warning letter issued in August 2010, and is working with NIEA and local stakeholders towards establishing a resolution to this complex issue,” an NIEA spokesman said.
Drive into Holywood and the smell hits you
People in Holywood are exasperated at the delays in sorting out the stench from the sewage works. It’s not there all the time, they stress, but when it does come, it’s appalling.
The smell dominated the area in last weekend’s glorious sunshine, as it seems to be worse in the heat.
Councillor Larry Thompson, who lives in Kinnegar, said: “There’s nothing worse than smelling raw sewage.
“This has been going on for two years. They said they had the money to sort it out but nothing has happened.
“It drops right across the dual carriageway. If you are driving past Palace Barracks and your windows are open you can smell it there. You just have to go indoors and shut the windows.”
Councillor Thompson said there is little birdlife at the lagoon next to the works. Thousands of wildfowl flock to the RSPB nature reserve in nearby Belfast Harbour estate to overwinter and breed.
At the Dirty Duck pub and restaurant, customers had plenty to say.
One Bangor lady said: “As soon as you come into Holywood, the smell hits you — it’s really bad. It’s not every day, but I would say nine times out of 10.”
Gardener Nathan McKeown (25) from Belfast said the smell was “stinking” on the dual carriageway.
“See when it’s a really hot sunny day and there is no breeze, it’s a disgrace. It should have been sorted out a long time ago.”
Belfast beauty therapist Joanne Gray (28) said: “When it’s warm, it seems to really heat up and it can be really bad. It’s only from time to time but it is awful”.
Holywood resident Claire McKinney (37) said: It’s noticeable when it’s very warm. At the weekend, you could really smell it.”