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Revealed: chain of events that led to rail line landslide

Northern Ireland Water has discovered the culprit behind a landslide that blocked the busy Bangor to Belfast railway line last month — several large chains.

Its investigations into the incident which disrupted morning commuter trains has revealed that the landslide was caused by a blockage in a nearby sewer after several lengths of chain were dumped in the pipes.

Engineers from NI Water had to use special jetting equipment to remove the chains which had caused the sewer to overflow, in turn leading to the landslide.

Services from Bangor to Belfast were halted for a while but hard work from NI Water and Translink staff saw the situation sorted out in time to avert delays to that evening’s rush hour.

Describing the incident as a “graphic illustration of how the disposal of inappropriate items in our sewers can impact on the public”, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy (below) urged the public to be mindful of what is placed in the sewerage network.

“On average each year NI Water staff deal with around 26,000 blockages to the network and it is estimated that 70% are caused by inappropriate items being put into the system,” he said.

“This can lead to considerable unnecessary costs being incurred and have a devastating impact on those householders and business people who find their properties flooded as a result of such blockages.”

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NI Water head of networks sewerage Des Nevin said it was far from an isolated incident. “In the course of the year we find all manner of items lodged in the sewerage system, from Christmas trees to chairs,” he said.

“It must be pointed out, however, that it is not just large items which can cause problems. Flushing items such as baby wipes, cotton wool and nappies can also have an equally devastating effect, not just on the network but also at our wastewater treatment works where blockages caused by these items have resulted in several pollution incidents. “Pouring fat, oil and grease down the sink causes immeasurable damage to the sewerage networks, pumps, valves and screening equipment.”

NI Water spends in the region of £1.7m per year clearing blocked sewers.

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