Irish Water acknowledged that it was unacceptable for raw wastewater to be discharged into the sea at Bonmahon.
FIFTY years of relative inaction when it comes to Bonmahon’s wastewater treatment appears closer to resolution following talks between Irish Water, political representatives and the Bonmahon Water Quality Initiative Group (BWQIG).
Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, BWQIG representative Jamie Power described recent developments on the matter that he first highlighted in this newspaper as “great progress”.
He stated: “The report prepared by Dr John Feehan for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has really lit a fire under the entire issue.”
In his report, published on April 22 following his visit to Bonmahon on March 16, Dr Feehan stated, “that the provision of a new waste water treatment plant be prioritised for the Bonmahon agglomeration”.
Dr Feehan conducted his inspection on March 16, during which he was accompanied by Mr Power, along with representatives of both Irish Water and Waterford City & County Council.
During the visit, Dr Feehan inspected Bonmahon’s three septic tanks along with effluent monitoring documents, upstream and downstream, and monitoring and desludging records covering the past two years.
Following representations by Senator John Cummins (FG), Mr Power met with members of Irish Water’s Asset Management Team, the body which assigns funding to any project the utility undertakes. This meeting took place on Monday last, May 30, and was also attended by Tom Keith, the Waterford Green Party’s Comeragh Area representative.
“I put it to (Irish Water officials Edmond O’Reilly and Christina van der Kamp) that what we have at present doesn’t satisfy the criteria necessary for primary treatment designation,” said Jamie Power.
During the meeting, the Irish Water officials acknowledged the “serious problems” which existed when it came to the current system in Bonmahon, which consists of three “undersized and at capacity holding tanks”.
With Mr O’Reilly acknowledging that it’s unacceptable for raw wastewater to be discharged into the sea, a point that’s been made locally for quite some time, work on the most problematic septic tank is to be “progressed imminently”. In addition, a regular desludging routine is to be implemented.
Mr Power continued: “Irish Water basically said that there would be an investment coming Bonmahon’s way to try to alleviate those problems so the meeting was as positive as we could have hoped for. We’ve now spoken directly to the people we really needed to talk to within Irish Water and that looks like it’s going to have the desired effect for the community.”
Video footage of a recent ‘wash through event’ supplied to Irish Water by the BWQIG illustrated what Jamie Power described as a “raw pollution incident, which inundated the tank and washed everything out of and into the river, that’s a recurring thing and it’ll keep recurring until they optimise the treatment systems that are in place, something Irish Water has now committed to. Secondly, Irish Water will be putting together a proper feasibility study for a future-proofed infrastructure upgrade, which means a new treatment plant for Bonmahon. I don’t think the outcome of the meeting could have been any more positive for us; it was the first approach from Irish Water which left us feeling that they’re really on board when it comes to doing something about this.”
Replying to a query by Senator Cummins, Mr O’Reilly said a series of dates outlining what will be addressed by Irish Water in the immediate term will be disclosed “within a couple of months”.
Capital maintenance funding to “establish the optimum operational standard for the existing septic tanks is readily available” and will facilitate the optimum use of the three existing tanks in the short term.
Jamie Power acknowledged the role played by Dr Feehan’s EPA report, in addition to the cross-party support offered by Senator Cummins, Minister Mary Butler (FF), Minister Malcolm Noonan (GP), Deputies Marc Ó Cathasaigh (GP) and David Cullinane (SF), along with Cllrs Conor McGuinness (SF), Lola O’Sullivan and Seanie Power (both FG).
Irish Water’s Asset Management Team has committed to hand over the long-term wastewater treatment project for Bonmahon to its Project Delivery Team in 2023.
Design, planning, construction and operation of the new plant may take between five and seven years to deliver given the nature of the project. Said Jamie Power: “We know there’s a long way to go yet but we’re in a much better place now than where we were six months ago.”