Upgrade of Ballymore waste water treatment plant a 'priority', says EPA

The upgrade of the waste water treatment plant in Ballymore is a "priority", according to a new report published by the EPA this week.

In the report, Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2020, the EPA states that the plant needs to be upgraded as there is “significant pressure on waters at risk of pollution”. The report also states that a completion date for the much needed works is required from Irish Water. The plant was one of 97 "priority areas" highlighted in the report.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, Ballymore native Cllr Vinny McCormack (FF) said that the report “only confirms what we have known about for quite some time that the waste water treatment plant is in urgent need of an upgrade”.

Cllr McCormack said that earlier this year he received confirmation that Irish Water has allocated over €1m for the upgrade of the plant and that work should progress next year.

“Not alone are there environmental issues but there are also huge limitations on how the village can develop. It restrained us when we were working on the county development plan because we couldn't zone much in the way of additional land in Ballymore because the waste water treatment capacity simply wasn't there.

“I was very happy to receive confirmation from Irish Water that the investment is now there and that the works are scheduled for next year. That will immediately impact on the environmental issues highlighted in the EPA report. I also got confirmation from the planning department in the council that we will subsequently be able to zone additional land during the review of the CDP," Cllr McCormack said.

“I had identified a couple of sites in the area that would be good in terms of serviced sites for people who were looking to build a house but were struggling to get planning permission rurally. They could purchase a serviced site in the village and build their own house.

“That is a real plus in terms of keeping people in the locality, but also moving slightly away from one off rural houses and hopefully building up the population in the village where all the services are. It would also hopefully lead to additional services,” Cllr McCormack added.

In a statement issued to the Westmeath Examiner, a spokesperson for Irish Water said:

"Ballymore Waste Water Treatment Plant was selected for funding under the Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme, Irish Water’s scheme to support growth in smaller towns and villages, and is currently progressing through the necessary stages including detailed design, planning, procurement and construction. The project is at an early stage and as such, it is difficult to provide timelines for delivery at this stage, however a further updates will be provided as the project progresses.

"Irish Water is responsible for the delivery of all public water and waste water services in Ireland. We are committed to continuously upgrading and developing critical infrastructure to support the growth needed in housing and across our economy, while protecting the environment and safeguarding water supplies."

Published annually, the EPA report identifies the priority areas where improvements are most urgently needed and will deliver the greatest environmental benefits.

Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager said:

“While we are seeing progress at some areas, it is very concerning that Irish Water still has no clear action plans setting out when and how it will improve treatment at many of the priority areas where waste water is threatening the quality of our rivers and coastal waters. It is essential that Irish Water improves treatment to resolve the environmental issues highlighted by the EPA and provides clear, site specific action plans and time frames to carry out this work.”