NI Water urged to address sewage spill after recent deluge

NI Water urged to address sewage spill after recent deluge

13 March 2019

NORTHERN Ireland Water has been urged to redouble its efforts to address significant flooding problems in Saintfield where storm water and raw sewage are mixing.

There was another major sewage spill at the town’s Old Grand Jury Road last week following heavy rain, while concern continues to grow about a significant flooding problem at the Grange Avenue area in the town.

News of the sewage spill at Old Grand Jury Road comes just three months after the last reported incident at this part of the town, with suggestions that flood water flowing to the area from the Grange Avenue direction could be exacerbating the situation.

Last year, NI Water confirmed that it was banning all new development in Saintfield and ordering a drainage study to determine the extent of work that is required to address capacity issues and so-called out of sewer flooding.

With work on the study already underway, there have been calls for it to also include Grange Avenue where residents claim floodwater is placing children’s lives at risk.

While NI Water insists Saintfield’s ageing treatment plant continues to meet strict environmental discharge standards, the town is one of a number across the Province which requires significant investment to upgrade the existing infrastructure to carter for current and future demand. 

While the drainage study has been welcomed by local politicians, they are concerned that no guarantees can be given that once it is completed, there will be money to implement its various proposals.

Rowallane councillors Billy Walker and Robert Burgess and Sinn Fein Rowallane election candidate Marianne Cleary have expressed concern about the latest sewage spill and the need to solve the problem.

Cllr Walker described the situation at the Old Grand Jury Road as “absolutely ridiculous” and called for the ongoing drainage study to examine the sewerage infrastructure across Saintfield.

“While we have been told that there are around 20 areas across the Province where there are

under capacity issues in relation to wastewater treatment works, it’s my contention that no area is as bad as Saintfield,” he declared.

“NI Water need to approach the Department for Infrastructure now to ensure that the money required to implement the findings of the drainage study is in place to allow the much-needed upgrade to start”

Cllr Walker said Saintfield residents were taxpayers and deserved to have issues associated with the town’s sewerage network, which have been in place for many years, addressed as a matter of urgency.

He added: “I welcome that the drainage study is underway but it is essential it covers the entire town so solutions to all the problems in Saintfield can be developed.”

Cllr Burgess agreed that Grange Avenue must be included in the current review and described the situation faced by some residents in the aftermath of flooding incidents as “intolerable”. He said storm water mixing with raw sewage was a health and safety issue.

“The current situation cannot be allowed to continue, but it appears that there is no quick fix in sight. The drainage study is expected to take until December to complete and there is no indication about how soon after work to provide Saintfield with a 21st century sewerage system will commence,” he said.

“The fact that in this day and age we have a situation which results in some Saintfield residents being unable to flush their toilets when there is heavy rainfall is simply unacceptable.”

Ms Cleary said a “sticking plaster approach” to the problems at the Old Grand Jury Road and Grange Avenue was unacceptable and that people’s health was being put at risk by flood water contaminated with raw sewage. 

“Whilst it is acknowledged that there is an existing sewage capacity issue in the area, this has further been exacerbated by a blockage in the mains system,” she continued. “Raw sewage has once again flowed into the street as the current system cannot cope with even a small amount of rainfall, never mind a large rainstorm.”

Ms Cleary said the upgrade of the storm water and sewage systems must be a priority. She said while NI Water has been proactive in addressing some short term issues, this is viewed by many affected residents as little more than a ’sticking-plaster’ approach to what she described as a “systematic failure”.

She added: “There can be no doubt that the only long term solution is a system-wide upgrade in Saintfield that allows development to continue and residents to live without fear of perennial flooding.”