Droughts and heavy rain at illegal dump site could affect Derry’s drinking water

City Waste, Campsie. (0706PG53)
City Waste, Campsie. (0706PG53)

There is limited exposure to Derry’s drinking water source at Carmoney from the Mobuoy Road illegal dump site but a series of droughts or heavy rainfalls could change all that, a top environment official has warned.

Mark Livingstone, from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s (NIEA) resource efficiency division, told a recent briefing of the Stormont Environment Committee he was concerned the longer remediation takes the more problematic the dump will become.

Mr Livingston said the NIEA will be putting measures in place to ensure the banks of the Faughan don’t collapse during the clean-up.

“There are problems, but, currently, there is little to no impact on the Faughan. There is a limited exposure to the drinking water point down at Cloghole for Carmoney, so there is some good news,” Mr Livingstone said.

Mr Livingstone and his colleague, David Small, Chief Executive of the NIEA, told the committee how a new report, outlining all the potential remediation solutions for the site, the cost of which will range between £10m and £100m, should be ready by next April.

“We asked for a reference group of specialists from the area to be set up, such as the Faughan anglers or some of the local guys and girls who know the detail of the farmland around there to help us to make the right decisions.

“The Faughan is very well fished, so, as part of the remediation project, how do we make sure that the bank is sound and that it is not going to collapse at any stage?” asked Mr Livingstone.

DUP MLA Maurice Bradley expressed concern about the potential for pollution extending from the dump into the Faughan and then on to Lough Foyle.

“You mentioned during your presentation that there was no sign of contamination so far, but how confident are you that, in the future, the leachate will not go into the sand and gravel beds and eventually make its way into the river and, perhaps, even into Lough Foyle?” he asked.

Mr Livingstone acknowledged the longer it takes, the more dangerous it becomes for the river and the environment.

“There is an impact on the river, but it is limited. It is below the environmental quality standards of drinking water, which are lower for each contaminant level. We are concerned that the longer we leave it, the more problematic it will become.

“Whilst it is a sand and gravel base, it is held together like clay in a bowl, and the longer the leachate sits there, the more potent it becomes, and there is a concern that, in the longer term, the groundwater will flush it through.

“That is why it is key that we develop the remediation strategy and get on with its implementation. The main impact of Mobuoy is the rainfall infiltration, as the groundwater feeds the River Faughan at that stage.

“It is not picking up any impacts at the minute, but, in the event of a series of significant droughts or intensive rainfalls events, that is when the problems will come.”