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21/09/2021

Contamination fears for Derry’s drinking water after sewage spill close to river

FEARS have been raised about the possibility of raw sewage contaminating the River Faughan following flooding from a sewer on farmland in the Ardmore area of Derry. It has now been confirmed that the sewage overflowed on to land (pictured above) that is no more than 200 yards from the River Faughan, which supplies Derry with drinking water. A sizable area of land, three quarters of an acre, has been affected by the overspill from a manhole. Speaking to Derry News, a farmer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he grazes cattle on the land and is ‘fearful’ of the financial impact of having to relocate livestock until the land is decontaminated. “It affects my work, I have the fields to keep to a standard by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the cattle will have to be removed from the field which will leave me having to source food from somewhere else. There’s no question that there will be a financial impact.” He explained that he will have to buy food for the cattle to cover the loss of grass and may be forced to double up on stock. “I’ve been left in limbo and have to figure something out,” he added. The independent Unionist councillor for the Faughan area, Maurice Devenney, said the issue has been ongoing for ‘a couple of years’ with the main sewer that comes down through the area in Ardmore. The farmer’s land is situated close to Ardmore cricket club, but Alderman Devenney made it clear the sewage has nothing to do with the club. “This is seemingly a fairly large spill,” he said, “and the information I have got is that it was a blockage in the sewer and it has over-spilled here. “NI Water, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and an environment officer from Derry City and Strabane District Council visited the site to see the extent of the spill. “We need to be very mindful that it is in very, very close proximity to the River Faughan where we have anglers fishing and I would have a worry about that. “I’ve spoken to residents who have said it’s a long-standing issue with a pipe going down through this ground. He added: “Some people have alleged that the pumps were too small and therefore aren’t strong enough strong enough to take the capacity. “And remedial work that has been done wasn’t done correctly as there are porous pipes that sewage shouldn’t be allowed to run through.” Alderman Devenney said concerns were raised about raw sewage running into the Faughan and answers need to be provided as to how the sewage flood occurred and what has to be done to prevent a recurrence. He personally believes that had it been the farmer who caused the contamination there would have been consequences. In response a spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs(DAERA) said: “A report of water pollution was passed to NIEA Water Quality Inspectors by Derry & Strabane District Council on 19th June 2018. “The investigation found that a sewer was discharging via a manhole into a field but there was no discharge of polluting material to the Faughan River or any other waterway.” NI Water confirmed that it has been liaising with ‘a customer in relation to out of sewer flooding in a field on farmland in Ardmore’. The spokesperson commented: “This flooding was a direct result of two severe blockages in the sewer line, caused by inappropriate items being flushed down the sewer and fat, oil and grease being disposed of down the sink. “This is an extreme example of how the disposal of these items, primarily sanitary items and baby wipes, can impact on others. “We have carried out a clean-up of the area, but this is having a limited impact due to the sheer size of the area affected and how wet the land currently is. Staff will be on site next week to remove excess sludge from the field. “The farmer has also been advised to contact his insurance company.” She added: “We would like to take this opportunity to remind the public that this is spill is a direct result of what was flushed down the toilet. “Sewer misuse is the biggest culprit of blockages and customer awareness and behaviour change is the only real way to address it; the message is simple, don’t flush anything other than paper, poo and pee and keep wastewater ‘Flo-ing’ through your drains and our network. “In the last ten years, NI Water has spent over £1.5 billion investing in water and wastewater infrastructure. “However, no amount of investment will completely stop blocked pipes if people continue to flush wipes (including flushable), sanitary items and cotton buds down the toilet.”

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