The collapse of the River Faughan’s banks during last week’s flooding, which saw the river pour through the Mobuoy Road toxic landfill dump, did not contaminate a tap water source for 50,000 Derry people at Carmoney, according to NI Water.
However, local environmentalists, anglers and political activists are not so sure.
River Faughan Anglers Ltd. (RFA), an association, which manages the salmon and trout fishery in the river, for example, fears the breach could lead to serious pollution of the watercourse.
Former People Before Profit MLA and long-standing environmental campaigner, Eamonn McCann, is also concerned the river, the source of 60 per cent of Derry’s drinking water supply, may have been polluted.
In a statement, RFA Ltd. stated: “We wish to express our dismay and alarm at this turn of events which has been allowed to happen by the very people charged with protecting the environment and indeed, our drinking water supplies.”
The association said it was concerned the “very essence” of the River Faughan was being threatened by light regulation and inadequate protection measures.
“We call on all those who can bring influence to bear to do so now, we have been accused of scaremongering in the past by the agencies who failed to stop this from ever getting so bad,” the RFA added.
Mr. McCann also raised concerns after the famed salmon river breached its banks during catastrophic flooding last Tuesday evening.
“The fact that NI Water’s Carmoney Pumping Station was overwhelmed by the flood meant that our drinking water was no longer being taken from the Faughan before the bank separating the dump from the river was breached,” maintained Mr. McCann.
“We should keep in mind that the source of 60 percent of the city’s drinking water has now been polluted and there’s no telling how long it’s going to take to make our water safely drinkable again,” he claimed.
He went on: “The toxic material in the dump and the River Faughan are now part of the same body of water.”
And Eamonn O’Donnell of the Enagh Youth Forum, has called for an urgent meeting with the statutory authorities to discuss the situation.
“For years now a number of local groups including our own have been calling for a full public inquiry into the Mobuoy Dump scandal and an immediate clean up of the site,” he said.
NI Water advised it ceased abstracting water from the River Faughan at Carmoney - which meets the annual domestic water needs of 50,000 people in the city - as a result of the high water level in the river, which caused flooding at the Faughan Pumping Station and damaged the intake pumps. The firm said it has been working since then to replace the pumps and hoped to have resumed abstraction from the River Faughan by the end of the Bank Holiday weekend.
The company said it was aware of the breach of the banks close to the dump at Mobuoy Road and that river water had flooded the old landfill site.
However, both NI Water and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have been monitoring the situation and do not believe the river has been adversely affected.
“NIEA have taken control of the old Mobouy site and have put extensive measures in place to ensure that the River Faughan is protected from the site, under extreme and day to day circumstances,” said NI Water.
“Any water which may have come into contact with the old landfill site and washed back into the river during the flooding, will have moved very quickly downriver and would not therefore be an issue for the abstraction point.
“NI Water and NIEA are working closely together to protect the River Faughan and therefore the NI Water abstraction point.
“They are independently monitoring the River Faughan water and sharing results.
“No impact has been detected in the river.
“NI Water have increased monitoring at the abstraction point, in order to ensure that water can safely be taken from the river through the new intake pumps.
“NIEA and NI Water staff have walked the river banks and the site on a number of occasions since the flooding incident.
“NI Water also works closely with the Drinking Water Inspectorate for Northern Ireland, the Health Authorities and local council officials.”
The NIEA said: “In an immediate response to the recent flooding, NIEA staff were deployed to the Mobuoy illegal landfill site and the surrounding area to monitor the impact of the flooding on the illegal landfill, amongst other issues. The situation continues to be monitored, with a sampling programme underway.”