Belfast Telegraph

Anger at reports of sewage pumping into Lagan for days

By Linda Stewart

Raw sewage poured into the River Lagan for three days before any action was taken, according to angry locals.

The sewage began pouring into the river in the centre of Dromore, Co Down, on Friday morning but nothing was done about it until Monday - even though locals say it was reported to the Department of Environment's Pollution Hotline as early as Saturday.

One shop owner said the raw sewage was pouring out of NI Water overflow tanks in the village centre off Bridge Street and it continued all weekend.

"It was terrible, horrific," he said.

He said he knew of two people who had reported the problem on Saturday, yet the problem wasn't cleared up until Monday afternoon.

"The sewage is still sitting in the water and the banks are covered in brown sewage - it's horrific," he said.

"There were ducks in the water and they disappeared over the weekend because of it. People are concerned that they may have been poisoned by it.

"The fishing people are furious. They say if anyone else were caught dumping in the river, they could be fined thousands."

DUP councillor Paul Rankin, who contacted the DoE on Monday in response to concerns raised by local people, said the sewage could be seen coming out into the river.

"I am sure the local fishing club would have been very concerned, and the local canoeing club too," he said,

"I hope that the underlying problem that is causing this has been resolved and if not I would urge that it would be resolved as soon as possible."

Northern Ireland Water said last night: "NI Water can confirm it is currently dealing with an incident at Bridge Street, Dromore, Co Down.  A report of a discharging combined sewer overflow was received on 23 March, and staff are on site working to resolve the problem." 

A Department of Environment spokesman said: "A call was received via the NIEA Emergency Pollution Hotline on the evening of Sunday 22nd March 2015 concerning the presence of sewage in the River Lagan at Bridge Street, Dromore. An inspector attended the reported incident on Monday 23rd March 2015.

"The presence of sewage was confirmed and the incident classified as low severity.

"The inspector alerted Northern Ireland Water (NIW) who have confirmed that the discharge has now been stopped and work is currently ongoing to clear a blockage."

In January, NI Water was fined £1,500 after admitting making a polluting discharge from Dromore Waste Water Treatment Works.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard that a Senior Water Quality Inspector acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency carried out a routine inspection of the outlet from Dromore Wastewater Treatment Works and observed an active discharge from the storm pipe.

The discharge to the River Lagan took place during a period of dry weather and sewage debris was seen around the outfall.

A sample taken at the time of the incident confirmed that the discharge contained poisonous, noxious or polluting matter.

Anyone wishing to report a pollution incident can call the 24-hour Water Pollution Hotline on 0800 807060.

Factfile

Dromore was once the market town for people living along the upper and middle reaches of the River Lagan. It is an ancient settlement, growing up on the site of an old monastery founded around 500AD. It once had a weir and mill race which allowed the power of the river to be harnessed for industry. Below Dromore, the Lagan runs parallel with the River Bann for 10-12 miles.

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