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NI Water claims hugely misleading

Published 28/11/2016

Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor
Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor

In relation to the article published in the Belfast Telegraph, entitled "Repeat offender NI Water pays out £80k on pollution fines in five years" (News, November 25), I would like to offer the following response.

Given the detailed statement that was issued to the paper in response to the original concerns, we are disappointed that the paper chose to only use one paragraph.

Contained in this statement was factual information received from NIEA, which showed that out of the 44 major fish kills that have occurred in Northern Ireland since 2012, NI Water was only responsible for two. The rest were attributed to farms and "other" sources.

This was not highlighted in the article and, in our view, was important information that your readers should have had the chance to see to avoid a biased view that NI Water is the only polluter of our waterways.

It is, therefore, incorrect and misleading to say that NI Water is the single biggest polluter of water in Northern Ireland. Over the past five years, in excess of 90% of pollution incidents were not associated with NI Water assets; another fact which was sent in our original response.

NI Water appeals in fewer than one in 10 cases it faces and the decision to do so is based purely on the merits of each individual case. As a publicly funded body, it is incumbent on us to safeguard public money and appeal when it is felt this is the appropriate course of action.

Far from adopting the approach of appealing big fines, as Mr Orr suggests, NI Water takes the approach of funding ever better environmental management to reduce the risk of the pollution events happening in the first place.

In 2016, we continue to deliver the highest-ever levels of wastewater compliance. However, as with any water utility, it is impossible to guarantee zero discharges across the entirety of its estate and both the NIAUR and NIEA work closely with NI Water to monitor such discharges.

Protection of the environment is a core customer promise that we make in NI Water. We place it at the heart of our day-to-day activity, so the fact that any incident of pollution is caused by our assets is a matter of deep regret for all of us in NI Water.

Every year, we treat and return safely to the environment 1.3 billion litres of waste from more than 1,000 waste water treatment works, so, while one incident is one too many, such instances are a very rare occurrence.

CLARE LEWSLEY

Media relations officer

NI Water

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