NI Water to invest £90m for sewerage network upgrade

NI Water to invest £90m for sewerage network upgrade

27 January 2021

NORTHERN Ireland Water has outlined ambitious plans to invest almost £90m across the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area to modernise sewage treatment plants and the sewerage network.

The scale of the planned investment over the next six years to provide a modern, fit-for-purpose sewage system was outlined during a virtual briefing with local politicians on Monday night.

By 2030, the local authority anticipates that 15,000 new homes will be built across the district, alongside the creation of 9,000 new jobs, with NI Water keen to play its part in helping the council achieve its target by ensuring that a 21st century wastewater system is in place.

NI Water is looking at how to accommodate the local authority plans and in the short term will help where it can, to find solutions and to look at all available options.

While almost £90m is earmarked for treatment plants and sewerage networks, NI Water said the investment does not include essential maintenance costs over the next six years.

It has explained that the proposed capital investment will help make significant inroads into addressing sewer and treatment plant capacity issues and will help new housing and business developments proceed.

In the former Down Council area, NI Water is planning to invest £10m in upgrading Downpatrick’s Belfast Road sewage treatment plant with a £7.5m spend earmarked for the Annsborough treatment plant. 

An additional £3m investment is planned for Drumaness and a £2m spend in Newcastle. The remainder of a £63m spend on wastewater treatment will largely be invested in Newry, Warrenpoint and Kilkeel.

In relation to sewer upgrades, there are plans to invest £2.5m in Dundrum, £2.4m at the Loughside Drive pumping station in Ballynahinch and £300,000 on a pumping station at the Ardenlee area in Downpatrick.

In terms of supporting the district’s future economy and environment, NI Water said significant, long term investment is needed, conceding that it will take more than a decade to address sewer and wastewater issues.

The organisation said its goal is to ensure there is a modern and efficient service, insisting this can only be delivered locally and province-wide, if it can secure the investment that it requires.

Politicians were told that NI Water requires over £2bn to fulfil its vision of economic expansion for people across the province over the next six years and has urged local politicians to do all they can to help secure the money the organisation requires.

Officials who briefed politicians on Monday night made it clear that the proposed list of schemes which has been developed is not a wish list, but a blueprint for the future.

Politicians have pledged to do all they can to help NI Water secure the money for the planned upgrade and are conscious of a lack of investment in the creaking sewerage system over the past decade.

Rowallane councillor Billy Walker said he hoped that plans to address wastewater issues in Saintfield were part of NI Water’s future planning.

He said while work had been carried out to deal with an issue at Old Grand Jury Road to prevent sewage back flowing into people’s homes, he said it was only a “sticking plaster” and that additional investment was required in Saintfield where a restriction in new development remains in place.

“A survey was to be carried out in Saintfield in relation to the sewerage network and capacity issues and what progress has been made on this?” asked Cllr Walker.

“I am fearful that when there is heavy rain problems with the sewer network could resurface. There has also been talk about a moratorium on new development due to a capacity issue at the treatment plant and if this remains in place I believe that we are doing a disservice to the people of the town.”

Cllr Terry Andrews also expressed concern about issues in Saintfield, with Cllr Robert Burgess thanking NI Water for the work it has carried out in relation to local concern. He said while everything is working well at the moment, the capacity issue at the town’s treatment needs to be addressed.

Stephen Blockwell, NI Water’s head of investment management, said investigations at the Old Grand Jury Road revealed a damaged storm culvert, which was fixed, along with other breaks in a sewer pipe.

In relation to concern about a planning ban, he said NI Water was a statutory consultee and could produce moratoriums.

Dr Blockwell said the organisation provided evidence-based responses and had completed a drainage area model for the Saintfield sewer network which had been validated and shared with the Environment Agency.

“In Saintfield, we will be looking at capacity issues across the whole system as well as pumping stations and will be discussing these with the Environment Agency as part of a catchment-based approach,” he added.