A senior environmental officer has said Derry has been “lucky” that nitrate, ammonia, and heavy metal levels along the stretch of the Faughan adjacent to the former Mobuoy landfill site have been maintained at safe levels to date.
Dr. Theresa Kearney, Principal Scientific Officer at the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), acknowledged a degree of good fortune has helped those responsible for managing the dump keep the river, which supplies Derry with 60 per cent of its annual water needs, clean.
“We’ve been lucky enough so far, but you never know, another downpour, another flood, we have to be prepared for that,” she said.
Dr. Kearney was speaking during a presentation to Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Health & Community Committee, during which she said the NIEA has been discussing contingency planning with Northern Ireland Water.
Independent Councillor, Warren Robinson, noted that nitrate levels in surface waters, ponds and a tributary that flows into the Faughan from Mobuoy were currently at safe levels. But what if that changed, he asked?
During the August 2017 floods a section of the Faughan’s banks spectacularly collapsed allowing the river to pour through the toxic landfill site. On that occasion NI Water temporarily stopped abstracting water from the Faughan at Carmoney although monitoring found the river had not been adversely affected.
Mark Livingstone, Head of Regulation at the NIEA, told the committee that in cases like last year’s breach the managers of the Mobuoy remediation programme had a mechanism in place to procure specialists to carry out structural repairs.
“We can get that fixed immmediately,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Livingstone advised the committee that he was limited in what he could tell them due to a looming court case that is due to be heard at the High Court for six weeks from January 6.