NORTHERN Ireland Water (NIW) has reported progress in its efforts to stop the flow of domestic sewage in to Larne Lough at Millbay.
Pollutant has entered the protected waters of the lough during spells of sustained wet weather from a stream that runs through the hamlet
However, consultants for NIW have reported to Millbay residents, environmental health officers and Assemblyman Roy Beggs Jnr that progress has been made in finding solutions to the problem, following a nine-month investigation.
Mr Beggs explained: “Problems with flooding and pollution from domestic sewage pre-date the installation of first-time mains sewerage at Millbay over five years ago. However, it has been a source of immense frustration to local people that there has been a catalogue of issues with the new system and the sewage pumping station which pumps the Millbay sewage up to Mullaghbuoy for secondary treatment and coastal discharge.”
The Ulster Unionist MLA added: “It was really only last summer, after concerted lobbying and a meeting organised by my office and the Islandmagee Community Association, that NIW realised and admitted that this was more than a wet-weather issue and instigated a proper investigation at Millbay.
“It was soon discovered that a telemetry system installed at the new sewage pumping station on the Ballytober Road was not fit for purpose and the repeated overflows into the stream and lough were not being monitored properly.
“Subsequent investigations revealed that four properties in the hamlet were connected to an old, previously unidentified crockery sewer pipe, which in turn was discharging raw sewage into a watercourse, causing obvious pollution. Three of the four are now connected to the new public sewers.
“NIW have also told us that they will be instigating a package of works to overhaul the equipment at the pumping station and address where ground water is getting into the foul sewer.”
Mr Beggs said Islandmagee Community Association had highlighted the issue and pressed for a solution. He added:
“I would praise the tenacity of the community association in pursuing this matter. In particular the expertise of several affected Millbay residents has been invaluable.
“I hope that lessons have been learned by NIW, who had just been formed out of DRD Water Service when the Millbay sewers were first installed. Communication breakdowns were sadly the order of the day when pollution incidents first became apparent. Hopefully, this has now been rectified with a new NIW incident call centre now fully established and operational.
“I trust Millbay residents will not need to report problems in the future, when the remedial work is complete. Larne Lough should be given the protection from pollution it deserves as a sensitive shellfish habitat.”
Islandmagee Community Association chairman Robin McIlwain said: “It has been good to see the various agencies like NIW and the environment agency working together with the community to identify and then come up with a solution to the problem. We are delighted, because there has been a blight on Millbay.”