Fungus from human sewage found growing in Laois river

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Fungus from human sewage found growing in Laois river

The River Gloreen in Ballyroan, Laois

Sewage fungus from human waste was found growing in a Laois river during the drought, forcing the trucking of waste to the Portlaoise treatment plant.

The fungus was in the Gloreen river into which waste is pumped from Ballyroan wastewater treatment plant.

It flows into the River Nore, a Special Area of conservation.

During the drought, the low river water level combined with poor performance of the treatment plant. This caused the fungus to grow.

Laois Council Council’s water services reported the incident and the action taken, at the July council meeting.

“A sewage fungus has established over a distance of 40 m downstream of the outfall. Tankering of the influent began on July 13 while temporary skip/tanks were being setup to receive the treated effluent from the treatment plant. These tanks are now in place and treated effluent (90m3/day) is being tankered to Portlaoise,” it said.

In some major Laois rivers during the drought, the flow dropped below 5 percent, affecting the capacity to dilute treated effluent from wastewater plants.

The potential environmental effects resulted in emergency measures to cease effluent discharges in some schemes. Ballyroan was first to be affected because of the low water levels and “the poor performance of the plant and it being slightly overloaded”.

CEO John Mulholland said that Ballyroan was one of the first victims.

“We have moved this year from floods to minimum flow of under 5 percent,” he said.

Group Water Schemes were said to be coping well with drought conditions.

Meanwhile, Portlaoise is to get a boost in water supply, in a move fast tracked to protect the rapidly growing town from water shortages, after a request by Laois County Council to Irish Water.

Irish Water will connect three more unused wells to the Portlaoise water supply.

The boreholes are in the Coolbanagher Wellfield, near Emo. They will provide enough water to serve half again of the town's current demands, 4,800m3 per day.

Early in the drought, Portlaoise was identified as a ‘at risk’ town by Irish Water, while a national hosepipe ban is still in place.

It escaped water restrictions, partly because leaking pipes were replaced by Irish Water in recent years.

“Over the past two years through a combination of leakage detection and active management, water demand in the broader Portlaoise Supply was reduced by 1400 cubic metres per day; equivalent to the water demand of over 2500 houses.

“Average daily consumption in normal conditions in Portlaoise is 8,600 m3 per day. The water conservation and leak repair work provided additional headroom and obviated the need for restrictions. Recent decreases in demand from the hosepipe ban gave further savings,” the council said.