Updated: 26/07/17 : 13:23:13
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South Sligo water supply upgrade halted by 'non existent' snail

On the 6th July representatives from Irish Water, The Department, and EU Environment Commission met to see how best to address the serious issue which is a cause of major concern for the 13,000 people who depend on the Lough Talt Water Supply.

Cllr Margaret Gormley told Sligo Today, "The lake is deemed a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) because of some rare snail that is supposed to exist there, but I am informed that he has not existed for hundreds of years.

"An Board Pleanala refused Irish Water permission to provide a new treatment plant to enable them to provide a safe secure long term drinking water supply to the 13,000 people who deserve good quality water. Is the health of the people not more important that a so called snail?"

Below is the latest update on the Lough Talt Water Supply Scheme which has been circulated to all councillors from Irish Water. This is disappointing news.

Communication from Irish Water

Irish Water has been engaging with relevant stakeholders both at a National and European level in order to determine how to best provide for adequate treatment of the existing water supply scheme based on Lough Talt in west Sligo. Lough Talt, Co. Sligo, has been used as a source of raw drinking water for nearly 70 years and currently supplies a population of approximately 13,000 people including the town of Tubbercurry and a large rural hinterland including the villages of Annagh, Aclare, Curry, Charlestown, Lavagh, Ballanacarrow, Carroweden, Kilmacteige and Coolaney.

Lough Talt is the sole source of public drinking water supply to this area, where the nearest alternative potential large scale water resources are Lough Conn, 30 kilometres to the west and Lough Gill, 40 kilometres to the north of the existing water treatment plant.

Irish Water and the EPA are not satisfied that the current level of treatment on the Lough Talt Water Supply is adequate, particularly with respect to  a potential risk of Cryptosporidium contamination and compliance with the specified limits for Trihalomethanes (THMs). For that reason, the EPA has directed Irish Water to provide adequate treatment and it is part of the Irish Water short term Capital Programme.

Given the risks to public health posed by the current treatment plant, Irish Water proposed to construct, as a matter of urgency, an interim water treatment plant downstream of Lough Talt, using the existing abstraction and we applied to Sligo County Council for planning permission for this plant, in 2015. Sligo County Council and subsequently An Bord Pleanála refused the application.  

The basis of refusal is that it cannot exclude the possibility that the development, in combination with the abstraction, would adversely affect the Lough Talt Special Area of Conservation (SAC).  The decision by An Bord Pleanála does not mean that Irish Water must cease current abstraction from Lough Talt but we do not have the necessary planning approval to  build the interim treatment plant as we had intended.

Based on a review of the An Board Pleanála decision and the engagements with national & EU authorities. Irish Water recognises the need to address the statutory requirements to meet the ecological objectives (Lough Talt is a Special Area of Conservation, with vulnerable habitats and species) in conjunction with addressing the need for safe clean drinking water for the community in west Sligo.

This will require that Irish Water examines how the public health & environmental risks can be balanced in this case. We are examining the possible alternatives and their timeframes, as well as what available environmental mitigation is possible at Lough Talt. When the necessary studies are completed (including detailed technical liaison with the relevant statutory agencies), Irish Water intends to re-apply for permission for an interim solution, to meet the drinking water standards with an appropriate programme of measures to manage the environmental impacts at Lough Talt.

This application will recognise the over-riding public interest to meet the required drinking water standards combined with available mitigation of environmental impacts.

We cannot give a definitive timeframe at this stage, pending the detailed studies, but we hope that we can make a revised planning application within 6-9 months. Allowing for the planning process, design, tendering and construction, it would be likely to take until 2020 to achieve full compliance with the drinking water standards.