Irish Water has confirmed that the existing wastewater treatment plant at picturesque Belleek in Ballina is one of five sites nationwide that are being examined as potential sludge hubs.
Local Dail Deputy Dara Calleary has vowed to vociferously oppose the plans for the Ballina plant which is located on the banks of the renowned River Moy and at the edge of Belleek Woods – Europe’s largest urban woodland.
Sludge is the residual, semi-solid material that is produced as a by-product during sewage treatment of industrial or municipal wastewater.
The Ballina wastewater plant is the only one in Mayo that is currently being considered as a candidate sludge hub.
The development is dependent on the availability of funding but Irish Water has confirmed that site investigation is currently being carried out to inform the detailed design stage and the preparation of a planning application.
If approved for planning and funding the Ballina plant and four other candidate sites around the country will gain additional capacity to accept the wastewater and water treatment sludge from other wastewater treatment plants in the vicinity.
Speaking exclusively to the Western People, Deputy Calleary said two weeks of engagement with Irish Water had yielded very little specific information in relation to its plans for the Ballina plant.
Stressing that it was clear that the plant could be expanded he said he was completely opposed to this and will continue to challenge the utilities company to come clean on their proposals for Ballina:
“The notion of a treatment plant on the banks of the River Moy has always been ridiculous in my view. Instead of expanding it they should be planning to relocate it away from the river and the forest.
“This plant already regularly emits awful smells in its vicinity and across the river to the Quay area. Any expansion will worsen that.”
But Irish Water says that the sludge hub proposals are contained within its National Wastewater Sludge Management Plan (NWSMP) which was published in 2016 and was the subject of two rounds of public consultation.
It sets out provisions to ensure that, for the first time, treated wastewater sludge across the country is effectively managed, stored, transported and re-used or disposed of in a sustainable way.
A company spokesperson further pointed out that the Ballina wastewater treatment plant has been identified in Mayo Co Council’s Sludge Management Plan as a location for a sludge hub from as far back as 2002, adding that it has the relevant facilities and capacity to deal with the filtrate arising from sludge de-watering and already accepts liquid sludge.
Deputy Calleary has vowed to keep all stakeholders informed of the proposals for Belleek as information comes to hand and will convene public information meeting in due course.
“Ballina has been at the end of the queue for Government investment for too long. How come we’re at the top of the queue for this?” he remarked.