Urgent upgrade needed at Laois water plant not up to standard and doubling in cost

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A public Laois wastewater treatment plant has more than doubled in cost to run in one year according to a county councillor and does not meet environmental standards according to Irish Water.

Cllr Mary Sweeney raised concern about the Ballyroan Wastewater Treatment Plant at this week’s Portlaoise municipal district meeting.

She said the plant cost €60,000 to run in 2017 and €140,000 to run in 2018.

“I feel very strongly that we urgently need an upgrade for the treatment plant. There are areas in the village that were never actually connected to the original scheme,” she said.

A spokesperson for Irish Water told the Leinster Express that the wastewater treatment plant at Ballyroan currently does not comply with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wastewater discharge licence in respect to environmental quality standards.

“Irish Water is currently at the early stages of planning to build a new wastewater treatment plant in Ballyroan and following the completion of the design, planning and construction processes is working towards the completion of a new plant in 2020,” they said.

Despite not meeting environmental standards, Irish Water said there are no issues in relation to health and safety.

Cllr Sweeney said that she had additional concerns about the lack of toilets in the Ballyroan community hall because they were never connected to the wastewater system.

“The community hall which would have over 100 people in it during the week at bingo, basketball, badminton and various other sporting activities it is the only location we have that is large enough to take that grouping and that there are no facilities there at the moment for toilets because it is just not working, it is a health and safety issue now as far as I am concerned and I am urgently requesting that we remedy this situation without any further delay.

“We can’t allow this to continue because it is a health and safety issue while respecting the response you gave me, I want action on this now because I don’t think we can afford to wait much longer, it is costing far too much and that can be remedied by an upgrade which surely has to be cheaper than what is currently happening there. I just feel it is incredible that the hall was ignored or overlooked I don't know what happened, it needs to be done straight away,” Cllr Sweeney said.

Irish Water said the drought in the Gloreen stream during the summer was very low and it had to tanker the wastewater.

“During the summer of 2018 Irish Water proactively tankered treated effluent from the Ballyroan Plant for further treatment, as water levels in the Gloreen stream were very low.

“The stream, this summer in particular (during the drought), did not have had adequate dilution capacity to allow for discharge, without having a negative impact on the environment.

“This decision was undertaken in the interest of protecting the ecosystem/fish life.

“Natural environmental conditions during this summer resulted in high temperatures and low flows, these conditions in itself have been stressful to the ecosystem (limiting oxygen and increasing biological activity), and we didn’t want to exasperate conditions further by permitting a discharge,” the spokesperson said.

Irish Water and Laois County Council water services both manage the plant in Ballyroan.

Cllr John Joe Fennelly said it  ‘sets alarm bells ringing’ that the treatment plant does not comply with the EPA wastewater discharge licence.

“Whatever has to be done should be done there,” he said.

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