By Donal Gilroy
In June and July of 2016 following the closure of our wonderful beach at Streedagh, we were told it was because of heavy rain, a concept with which our area is very familiar with.
I made clear in my complaints to Sligo County Council and the EPA that I firmly believed that Grange Waste Water Treatment Plant on the edge of the Grange River was the root of the problem. Almost a year later the people who use the designated Scenic route from Grange to Streedagh and on to Maugherow are again subject to pungent odours daily.
No proper explanation was ever given for the pollution last year but in the furore that followed we were finally given a date by Irish Water for a new waste water treatment plant (along with three others in Sligo) to commence in Q1 of 2017. This was given on Ocean FM Radio
(Circa Sept 1st, 2016) and by Sligo County Council on September 5th at a monthly Council Meeting.
I am 10+ years lodging complaints and lobbying for the upgrading of a plant that is over capacity for more than 20 Years. Last September I escalated my complaints from Sligo County Council to the EPA and carefully followed their complaints procedure. My complaints about water pollution and malodours were acknowledged within days.
What followed was a deafening silence.
Based on the promises made I let it lie until the Q1 commencement date passed without any commencement of work. My first approach was the EPA to question what action they had taken regarding my complaints and those of others. They had passed on my complaint about pollution by Irish Water to Irish Water and asked them to respond which they of course did not do.
They told me they were monitoring the progress and said that Irish Water had a commencement date of Q4 2017. I was shocked this had been pushed out without notice and I contacted Sligo County Council to find out what their position was. They knew nothing of this date but got an update that it was expected in Q3 of 2017 and had gone out for Tender again with completed tenders due in Mid-January.
The minutes of the September 2016 Sligo County Council meeting were not available on the Sligo County Council website for some strange reason but through research I found that the words used in the information provided by Irish Water were “Expect to sign a contract in January 2017” and “Anticipated that work would commence in Q1 2017” I can only refer to words like Expect and Anticipate being weasel words.
Following discussion with the programme manager of the EPA I am now demanding further investigation by the EPA and they have agreed to look at the areas of pollution with me, unfortunately the agency that is supposed to protect the environment say they would “out of courtesy” inform Irish Water and Sligo County Council in advance of any inspection.
When I picked myself from the floor I asked if they seriously after all I and others had told them considered it acceptable to inform the polluter that they were going to inspect. I told them to save the taxpayer some money and stay in their office if they were going to do this.
This week as the temperatures raised the smell has increased and greets children on their way to school, walkers out for their exercise, cyclists, runners, tourists on the wild Atlantic way and of course the community that is under siege to this gross pollution for a lifetime.
I also finally received a letter of response from Moin Ud Din of Irish Water to my complaint of September 2016 to tell me that the matter had been “Thoroughly Investigated and Sligo County Council Visited the site on 13th April 2017” Odours were detectable inside the plant but No Odours were found on the road outside the plant. Anyone who uses this road knows the odours stretch for about 100m each side of the plant.Expectations
What we know is that the expectations and anticipations given by Irish Water and Sligo County Council last year have failed to be delivered. But we must look at what we don’t know. Why did Irish Water not appoint a contractor when they put it out to tender last year?
Were any acceptable tenders received by the Mid-January deadline?
Will the updated design require planning permission and further delays?
Who is going to clean up the pollution in the river and the estuary?
Who is representing the people of this area and are they asleep at the wheel?
Who will accept the responsibility for protecting the environment?
The Grange sewage plant flows into this estuary and is 20 years past the time when it should have been upgraded. Proper supervision and inspection is not and has not taken place. De-Sludging and clean out procedures are carried out to coincide with inspections and the priority is to have a paper trail to say everything is perfect and no environmental damage is being done while everybody knows it is. Irish Water, Sligo County Council and the EPA all have a responsibility and by failing in their responsibilities they are damaging our area and tourism potential. It is my clear belief that those responsible at local and national level for the issues highlighted above have failed Sligo miserably by allowing this situation to continue.
I trust you will bring these issues to your readers/listeners’ attention and seek answers from our local authority and Irish Water about what they are going to do about it.
Donal Gilroy is a SEI Registered BER Assessor