£7m project to transform ageing sewage works

£7m project to transform ageing sewage works

21 December 2011

NEWCASTLE’S sewage treatment plant will be one of the most modern of its kind when work is completed on a £7m upgrade and extension.

Contractors begin the task of completely overhauling the 21 year-old plant and adding a major extension on January 9 with the work scheduled to take 18 months to complete.

The work will ensure the quality of bathing water in the resort is much safer and help boost the drive to secure prestigious Blue Flag status for Newcastle beach.

The significant capital investment scheme at the treatment plant is in addition to £6m Northern Ireland Water has already spent in Newcastle over the past three years upgrading the sewerage network and closing a number of drains where sewage and storm water mix.

The multi-million pound upgrade will be carried out by Saintfield-based marine civil engineering contractors Dawson-Wam and Ovivo, which specialise in wastewater treatment solutions.

Hundreds of tonnes of stones will be dumped in the sea where the extension to the existing treatment plant will be built and huge metal piles driven into the ground to create a box-like structure, a coffer dam, from which sea water will be pumped out to allow work on the extension to get underway.

Last week, during a briefing for local politicians and other groups in Newcastle, NI Water’s head of wastewater treatment said the refurbishment and extension is essential to meet future stringent discharge standards.

Mr. Dermott McCurdy described the Newcastle investment as “one of major significance” and hopes images of sewage bubbling up from manhole covers will be a thing of the past.

He said when fully complete, the various upgrades will ensure Newcastle’s sewerage infrastructure operates in accordance with EU directives.

The NI Water official said the upgraded treatment plant will be able to handle 15,000 cubic metres of wastewater every day and that a 635 cubic metre tank to hold storm water forms part of the construction project at the harbour.

Mr. McCurdy confirmed a number of storm drains where rain water and raw sewage mix have been closed and explained the key thrust of the investment at the harbour plant is to ensure discharges meet required standards into future.

“The existing plant has met discharge standards for the past five years, but it’s not capable of producing the standard of final effluent needed to comply with the future standard that will be imposed by the Environment Agency,” said Mr. McCurdy.

“The Environment Agency has designated the bathing water at Newcastle as ‘sensitive’ which means that further wastewater treatment in the form of bacterial reduction needs to be provided at the plant by May 2013.”

Mr. McCurdy said improving the quality of water discharged from the plant will have a “positive impact” on Newcastle’s bathing water quality. He said the design of the upgraded treatment plant is flexible to cater for sewage flows for the next 25 years.

“If there are new discharge standards introduced in the future, we can make adjustments at the plant to meet these,” he said.

The NI Water chief said the organisation and the firms involved in the major construction project also want to minimise the impact of the work in what he described as a “high amenity area.”

Mr. McCurdy said steps will be taken to minimise the impact on the local environ-ment during construction work and explained carbon filters will ensure odours from the plant won’t impact on anyone, “regardless of weather conditions.”