NIW fined for polluting Newcastle waterway

NIW fined for polluting Newcastle waterway

16 November 2011 - by CIARA COLHOUN

NORTHERN Ireland Water Limited has been fined £1,250 for polluting the Burren River in Newcastle.

The organisation was fined at Monday’s sitting of Downpatrick District Court, following the incident which happened as the result of an air lock in the Burren Sewage Pumping Station on May 14, 2010.

The company was fined for making a sewage discharge to a waterway and for contravening the DOE’s consent conditions.

An officer from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), who inspected the Burren River, noticed untreated sewage across the entire width of the waterway for a distance of around 800 metres.

The effluent had also entered the Shimna River, which discharges onto Newcastle beach.

A sample taken at the time of the incident confirmed the discharge contained poisonous, noxious or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway.

District Judge Greg McCourt imposed the fine following a contest on Monday during which a Water NI representative admitted that alarm settings, which should have alerted staff to the overspill, were incorrectly set.

This meant they were only alerted to the 11am incident, several hours after it began.

Mr. McCourt said he was not satisfied the maintenance and installation of the alarm system was adequate.

He said the overspill should have been discovered much earlier in the day and said it was for this reason that he would convict the company of one charge of pollution of a waterway and one charge of breaching a condition set out in the Water Order of 1999.

A spokesman for NI Water said the incident was a “learning experience” for the company and had happened when the pumps at the station became air locked.

“NI Water treats any issue of pollution extremely seriously and has taken steps to minimise the potential for a similar incident at Burren Sewage Pumping Station to occur,” he said.

“An internal investigation identified the need for the alarm to alert much earlier than it had been set to do so. The alarm has been set so NI Water staff now have an earlier warning to a potential problem. This incident was classified as low environmental impact as no fish were killed.

“NI Water is tackling serious long term underinvestment in this and other wastewater infrastructure across Northern Ireland.

“A capital upgrade programme is presently completing on the Newcastle sewerage system, with a spend of approximately £5million. When this investment programme is complete, such incidents will become less common.