Faughan area pollution questioned

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The River Faughan is an important salmon river

The revelation came as Green MLA, Stephen Agnew asked the Minister of the Environment, Mark H Durkan, questions in relation to the prosecution of NI Water for pollution. The court case was reported on the NI Executive website on 19 March 2015.

In a written question, Mr Agnew asked: “(1) Whether the Ardnabrocky Burn flows into the River Faughan Special Area of Conservation (SAC); (ii) how close the pollution incident occurred in relation to this European site and; (iii) whether the courts were made aware of the proximity to the River Faughan SAC as part of his Department’s prosecution case.”

Mr Durkan replied: “The boundaries of the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) lie close to the actual River Faughan and to its principal tributaries. The SAC does not include the entire River Faughan catchment or all of its minor tributaries.

“In the case of the pollution incident at Northern Ireland Water’s Manorwood Waste Water Pumping Station, the Ardnabrocky Burn is a minor tributary of the River Faughan. However, this incident occurred approximately 750 metres from the outer boundary of the River Faughan SAC (or approximately 1,000 metres as measured along the path of the Ardnabrocky Burn). The visible impact of the incident extended for approximately 200 metres, with the last visible impact occurring approximately 550 metres outside the boundary of the SAC (or approximately 800 metres as measured along the path of the burn).

“As there was no direct evidence that this incident had damaged the River Faughan SAC, no allegation of damage to the SAC was made in court.”

Northern Ireland Water (NIW) pleaded guilty and was fined £250 at Derry Magistrates Court on March 19.

The fine related to the breaching of conditions of a discharge consent relating to the operation of Manorwood Waste Water Pumping Station (WWPS).

On 9 December 2013, a Water Quality Inspector acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, inspected the Ardnabrocky Burn and observed an extensive covering of sewage fungus coating 100% of the bed of the waterway. The water in the Burn was observed to be slightly cloudy and the impact on the waterway stretched for over 200 metres downstream.

NIW stated that on 5 December 2013, one of the pumps was reported as not functioning. A NIW operative attended the site but was unable to start the pump. An order was raised for an M & E fitter to repair the pump, however, it was decided to leave this work until later as there was a second pump available. One pump is not capable of coping with the incoming flows and as a result the storm was overflowing over the weekend. NIW further stated that the pump arrangements at the time of the incident were duty / assist, however, the arrangements were recorded as duty / standby at the Telemetry Control Centre and the wet well range was set incorrectly. This situation contravened the conditions of a Water (NI) Order 1999 ‘consent to discharge’ issued in respect of the installation.