A long-planned €114m upgrade of Athlone’s wastewater infrastructure is due to begin in the coming weeks.

Plan to 'limit disruption' from three-year wastewater works in Athlone

What's been billed as the largest civil works project ever in Athlone is due to begin in the weeks ahead.

Over the next three years, the town's sewerage and wastewater infrastructure will be given a massive overhaul as a result of the €114 million Athlone Main Drainage Project.

"The engineering challenge, the project as a whole, and the money involved, are on a different level to anything the town of Athlone has experienced before," local councillor Aengus O'Rourke stated last week.

The project - which will involve excavations in some of the busiest areas of Athlone - is likely to result in varying degrees of traffic and other disruption until its scheduled completion in late 2025.

However, a spokesperson for Uisce Éireann said on Monday that it would be making a particular effort to reduce the traffic and other disruption locals would face as a result of the upcoming works.

A tunnelling method is set to be used for the installation of some of the new wastewater pipelines in the town, rather than using open-cut trenches.

"This will significantly reduce disruption in the town and represents a technological feat in construction," said the Uisce Éireann spokesperson.

"Where open cut trenches are required, the works area footprint will be kept to a minimum to minimise disruption and to allow access to businesses and traffic to flow. Works will be completed as expediently as possible in each area."

The project is also due have a full time Community Liaison Officer in place, who will be "on the ground to deal with any queries or concerns from the public and local businesses," and will attempt to resolve any issues that arise.

Uisce Éireann said its long-planned investment would bring an improvement in the water quality of the River Shannon, and would facilititate the "future growth and development" of Athlone.

The project is due to start shortly, with work at Deerpark Road and the Canal Bank Junction pencilled in for the first quarter of this year. This is then to be followed by works on both sides of the river, including at Burgess Park and Golden Island.

Two separate tunnelled crossings under the Shannon are due to be constructed as part of the project, along with new pumping stations at Golden Island and Coosan West, and almost three kilometres of new sewers.

The work is due to finally address the longstanding problem of sewage flowing into the River Shannon in Athlone during times of heavy rainfall.

Uisce Éireann said combined sewer overflows would be eliminated at six locations along the Shannon and would be replaced by two new stormwater overflows designed to meet current licensing standards.

It added that the existing "under-performing pumping stations and pipework" in the town would be decommissioned.

Cllr O'Rourke, the Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, said the €114m being allocated for the project was a "staggering" amount of money.

"As a rapidly-growing town, both economically and population wise, we need this investment. To be honest, we needed it twenty years ago!" he said.

"At least now this plan will serve to future-proof the town for generations to come in terms of a reliable supply of high-quality clean water.

"Just as important as reliable clean water will be our ability to deal with our sewage through state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants built to the highest possible standard."

He said achieving city status "must be our ambition for Athlone" and that continual investment would be needed in order to make that aim a reality.

Eunan Canavan, Regional Infrastructure Delivery Lead at Uisce Éireann, said the utility was "looking forward to delivering this important project on behalf of the local community in Athlone.

"This project will enhance the local environment by alleviating sewer flooding and improving water quality in the Shannon for angling, water sports and marine life.

"It will also ensure that the wastewater infrastructure meets the needs of homes and businesses while providing capacity for current and future growth and development," said Mr Canavan.

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien, also welcomed the announcement, saying the project would "significantly improve" water quality in the Shannon.

"It will reduce flooding, protect our environment and crucially, will provide the capacity we need for more homes and development in the region," he added.

The project is to be carried out on behalf of Uisce Éireann by Ward and Burke Construction Ltd. It's scheduled to involve works at multiple locations across Athlone including: Golden Island, West Bank (The Quay), West Side, Abbey Road, Coosan West, The Strand, Burgess Park, Payne's Lane, and under the River Shannon.