Project engineer Paul Costello (red hat) explaining the working of the new waste water treatment plant at The Ross, Bundoran today (Friday). Picture: Thomas Gallagher
Irish Water is investing €400m in water and wastewater facilities in Donegal, the third largest capital investment by them anywhere in the country.
Paul Fallon, Infrastructure Programme Manager with Irish Water said the discharge of untreated raw sewage is "not acceptable" and following on from an EPA report in 2014 which identified 44 locations nationwide where this was happening, Irish Water pledged that this practice will have stopped by 2021. 11 of those 44 sites were in Donegal and these are being whittled down with a series of major projects, some complete, others in the pipeline, but Irish Water is determined that nationally their 2021 deadline will be met.
Mr Fallon was speaking in Bundoran's Great Northern Hotel at the official opening Irish Water's €25m wastewater investment project in Bundoran, Killybegs, Glencolmcille and Convoy.
He said the opening of the four wastewater plants means that raw sewage is no longer being discharged into waterways or the sea in Bundoran, Killybegs, Glencolmcille and Convoy.
He said 11 of the 44 towns identified by the EPA were in Donegal and Irish Water were working their way through these with developments ongoing and planned.
Michael McGarvey, Director of Services, Donegal County Council said the overall figure of €400m was hugely significant and will see investment in water treatment, waste water, networks and other improvements.
Mr McGarvey said that with the exception of one issue remaining in Mountcharles, that the discharging of untreated waste into Donegal Bay was no longer happening.
He said the level of investment in Donegal was the third highest in the country. It's understood Dublin and Cork the only counties with greater investment.
This four town/village project opened today was carried out by Veolia Water Ireland. It will ensure many benefits for the four areas including environmental benefits, improved bathing water quality for surfers and swimmers, enhanced amenity value and the capacity for future population growth.
Working in partnership with Donegal County Council, Irish Water invested in the construction of two new wastewater treatment plants in Bundoran and Killybegs where raw sewage was being discharged out to sea.
The works in Bundoran have put a stop to the discharge of the equivalent of 9,600 wheelie bins of raw sewage per day into the sea while in Killybegs, the equivalent of 3,300 wheelie bins of raw sewage are now no longer being discharged. A new wastewater treatment plant was also construted in Glencolmcille while wastewater infrastructure upgrade works are complete in Convoy.
Tony McLoughlin TD, in the absence of Deputy Joe McHugh, who could not attend the opening due to illness, said: “Prior to the completion of these works, Bundoran and Killybegs were two of the 44 locations around Ireland where wastewater was being discharged into the sea untreated. It is hard to believe that this was permitted to occur for so long considering the importance of the vibrant surfing and sea recreation that takes places in the region."
Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Seamus O Domhnaill said the "opening was a good news story" and that but for the involvement of Irish Water it was "not probable" that Donegal County Council would have been able to make the level of investment (€25m) that was made in the four towns/areas: “Today is a red letter day for these four communities who will benefit greatly from this €25 million investment by Irish Water."
He outlined how important the works were at centres such as Bundoran which relied on the tourism market, Killybegs which was a fishing/tourism hub, Glencolmcille where Sliabh Liag was proving a huge tourist attraction and Convoy, where clean waters would add to the quality of life of so many.
The upgrade works will increase the treatment capacity of each of the plants to meet the current needs of the towns and to allow for future growth. The works will also ensure that wastewater is treated and discharged in compliance with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Regulations and with the conditions of the Wastewater Discharge Licence (WWDL) issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It will also improve the water quality of nearby coastal areas, protecting bathing areas and the aquatic environment from pollution.
* Further coverage in Tuesday's Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press.