Northern Ireland Water Ltd (NIWL) was today (Friday, November 23rd) fined £16,500 after it pleaded guilty at Dungannon Crown Court to polluting the Ballygawley Water River in County Tyrone.
The case arose following a number of investigations conducted by Water Quality Inspectors (WQIs) acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) who inspected the Ballygawley Water River.
On May 9th, 2017, the waterway was observed to be cloudy in appearance with extensive grey fungal growth on the river bed and significant quantities of sewage-related debris were also present in the waterway and trapped on the banks.
Fish were observed to be in a distressed state within the polluted waterway, no ‘fish kill’ occurred.
The pollution was traced upstream for a distance of 1.2 kilometres to an actively discharging outfall pipe on the NIWL sewerage network serving Ballygawley, according to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
In accordance with procedures, the NIEA Inspectors collected a statutory sample of the discharge and further investigation confirmed that the polluting discharge was occurring as a result of an overflow from Ballygawley Chapel Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO).
The discharge was occurring during low flow conditions and in dry weather. NIWL were contacted following set procedures and they subsequently contacted a Water Quality Inspector later that afternoon to say they had taken remedial action to stop the discharge from the CSO.
A follow-up visit occurred on May, 11th to ensure the discharge had ceased and inspectors discovered that there was still a grey polluting discharge occurring from the same NIWL outfall pipe that had been discharging; a statutory sample of this discharge was collected in accordance with procedures.
Investigations revealed the incident was occurring as a result of a further discharge of untreated sewage from the same Ballygawley Chapel CSO.The NIEA Inspectors observed that the metal sides of the channel carrying untreated sewage through the CSO were in a state of disrepair.
As a consequence, untreated sewage was flowing through gaps in the metal sides of the channel where it was then discharging to a storm pipe at the base of the CSO chamber before then being it discharged to the Ballygawley Water River.
The discharge pathway was confirmed by a dye test. The NIEA Inspector contacted NIWL at this time and who said they would carry out remedial work to repair the Ballygawley Chapel CSO in order to stop the discharge.
Further follow-up investigation
On the evening of May 11th, during a further follow-up investigation to ensure that the discharge observed earlier that day had ceased, the NIEA Water Quality Inspector confirmed that the remedial work had been carried out on the Ballygawley Chapel CSO.
However, the Inspector discovered that the NIWL owned outfall pipe into the Ballygawley Water River was still discharging a grey polluting matter and this source of this polluting matter was then traced to a discharge from the NIWL owned Ballygawley Tennis Courts CSO where untreated sewage was observed overflowing within the CSO chamber. The Water Quality Inspector contacted NIWL to report the incident and requested that the discharge be stopped immediately.
The Inspector notified NIWL, giving the exact name and unique NIWL asset reference number of the Ballygawley Tennis Courts CSO so as to avoid any confusion with the previous discharges that had occurred from the Ballygawley Chapel CSO.
On the morning of May 12th, 2017, a Water Quality Inspector returned to the area and confirmed that a discharge to the Ballygawley Water River was still continuing through the NIWL outfall pipe. They assessed the operation of the Ballygawley Tennis Courts CSO and found that it was still overflowing to the Ballygawley Water River.
In accordance with procedures, a statutory sample was collected of the overflow from the Ballygawley Tennis Courts CSO; it was confirmed that this overflow discharged to the Ballygawley Water River through the NIWL outfall pipe.
The sewerage collection system serving Ballygawley is owned and operated by NIWL who hold a Consent to make discharges from it under set conditions. The discharges occurred during dry weather.
All samples taken confirmed that the discharges contained poisonous, noxious or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs outlined.