Clonaslee’s eco-friendly sewage treatment plant was officially opened by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan last Friday, February 8.
Standing beside the manmade wetlands where raw sewage is naturally converted into clean water, the Minister quipped ‘I’m used to pulling strings” as he opened the ceremonial curtains on a commemorative plaque, assisted by local schoolchildren.
He thanked Laois homeowners for registering their septic tanks before the February 1 deadline. Three in four homeowners with domestic systems in Laois have registered.
“This followed a court case (by the European Court of Justice) that we didn’t come out of too well. Thank you for your co-operation, it is a bit of inconvenience. We will be in regular contact on how to improve systems,” he said.
He first heard of the system during the late 80’s from the wildlife film maker, Senator Eamon de Buitléir.
“This is part of a very exciting programme that came to my attention from Eamon de Buitléir. He died in the last few days, he was a man before his time. This provides a cost effective but environmentally sound solution,” he said.
He was delighted to see school children at the launch.
“The educational benefit of the wetlands is not to be underestimated, there will probably be a coffee shop here before long to cater for the school buses,” he said, congratulating all involved with the job.
The innovative site was visited by a delegation of Chinese politicians recently and will also feature on an upcoming episode of RTE programme Eco Eye.
Clonaslee Integrated Constructed Wetland is built on a 14 acre site on the Tullamore road.
It replaced a defective sewage treatment works built in the 1950’s.
Neighbour Damien Moran said sewage has backed up around nearby housing estates since the 1990’s.
“This is twenty years too late, but better late than never,” he said, adding that the site is now home to 40 ducks, and is fast becoming a popular walking spot.
The raw sewage from the village now flows through a series of lakes planted with species which slowly purify it back to water, released into the river Clodiagh.
Local contractors Killeen Civil Engineering built the ICW, at a cost of €523,000. Running costs are less than half that of conventional systems, with lower maintenance and enerby costs. It may also provide a carbon sink, further helping the environment.
ICW systems are unsuitable for larger populations, but the Clonaslee plant can serve a population of up to 1200, well beyond the 700 homes now connected to it.
Construction on conventional sewage works is expected to start later this year in Stradbally, Mountrath, Durrow, Rathdowney and Abbyleix, according to County Manager Peter Carey.
“We are delighted we have that scheme at tender stage,” he said.
He thanked Dr Rory Harrington who pioneered the first ICW plant in Dunhill in Waterford, for his advice.
“His party piece is to take a glass of water from the last pond and drink it, it is good to see he is still in rude health,” laughed the county manager.
Mr Carey praised the Clonaslee community for their support.
“This is a fantastic community who take pride in their area,” he said, also thanking his staff and all who worked on the project.
The launch was also attended by Minister Charles Flanagan, Senator John Whelan, Cathaoirleach Cllr Paul Mitchell, County Councillors and Chief Superintendent Garda John Scanlon.
Following a blessing by Clonaslee PP Fr O’Reilly and Rev Ruth Noble, all were bussed back to Scoil Bhride to view projects by schoolchildren on the wetlands, and enjoy refreshments.