ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has been asked to fast-track the provision of more than €22 million for the long-awaited upgrade of the Shannon Sewerage Scheme after his recent allocation of over €1m was described as a “drop in the ocean” by Councillor PJ Ryan.
While welcoming €1m in funding to proceed with advance works for a mechanical and electrical contract on the Shannon Sewerage Scheme, Councillor Ryan stressed it is only a small fraction of what is urgently needed for the overall upgrade.
Councillor Ryan claimed the original plant, which was constructed in the 1970s and operated by Shannon Development until 2004 when it was taken over by Clare County Council, wasn’t designed to cater for the increase in the amount of sewage from residential and commercial properties following the growth of Shannon and its environs.
“The recent allocation sounds good but in practice is a long way off what the minister should be approving as a matter of urgency. Councillors have been calling to upgrade the scheme for a long time and I doubt if the current plant is in full compliance with the latest EU directives or regulations,” he said.
Councillor Gerry Flynn pointed out the €1m is only designed to carry out urgent remedial works on the pumping station, which had been sought by local councillors as a short-term measure, as they acknowledged it would be difficult to secure €22.577m for the overall scheme.
The independent councillor recalled senior engineer, Sean Ward had been very frank in his reports and updates about the scheme, which acknowledged an upgrade is needed.
“I accept the €1m is only a sticking plaster and will not do anything for the capital programme. If major developments were planned for Shannon over the coming years, they would be hindered by the lack of a proper sewerage scheme,” Councillor Flynn said.
“This issue has been raised for years by the late Councillor Sean Hillery and councillors like Patricia McCarthy, who organised a deputation of local councillors to highlight the issue with the former county manager, Alec Fleming.
“It is critical that funding is provided. Clare’s Fine Gael and Labour Oireachtas members are talking a good talk. It is now time they secured the necessary money for the upgrade,” he said.
Mr Ward confirmed the department’s letter of approval or other documents did not make any reference to approval for the main Shannon Sewerage Scheme. While the council submitted upgrade proposals in its Preliminary Report [PR] in May 2011, he admitted it is not possible at present to put a date on either the commencement or completion of the main Shannon Sewerage Scheme.
“These will depend on several factors, including the department’s approval of the proposals in the PR, the department’s approval of Government funding, Clare County Council’s ability to contribute its own portion of the funding and the method used to procure the scheme,” he said.
What is proposed is a new treatment plant on the same site as the existing one at Tradaree Point, to cater for a population equivalent in Phase One of 35,000 PE and Phase Two of an additional 7,000 PE; replacement of parts of the existing network of sewers and work on the pumping stations, which is covered by the currently approved advance contract.
According to a draft Preliminary Report prepared by the council in 2010, the estimated costs of the total works proposed were WWTP Civil, €8.696m; mechanical and engineering, €7.545m; outfall, €54,752; Bunratty pump stations, €379,988; Shannon pump stations, €2,151,422; network upgrades, €1.9m and network refurbishment, €1.840m.
This report estimated the capital cost per existing house was €6,921. A cost of less than €10,000 is generally accepted as good value for money.
The report concluded the existing wastewater treatment works is overloaded and an upgrade is required, as the effluent quality standards from the selected treatment process must meet the requirements of all current statutory environmental regulations.
“During wet weather and storm conditions, sections of the network are surcharged, leading to minor flooding. The pump stations in the collection network are not in compliance with the ETCI regulations and are in need of modernisation.
“A CCTV and manhole survey of the existing pipeline system, manholes and pump stations have highlighted areas which need repair and remediation. A very significant proportion of the network was not surveyed due to excessive blockages in the network,” it stated.
According to an Environmental Impact Statement for Shannon WWTP, completed by Consulting Engineers Nicholas O’Dwyer, which was submitted to the EPA, “The estimated capital costs for the provision of network repairs, upgrades and extensions with an upgraded and expanded treatment system is €22.577m”.
This report also stated, “The discharge from the existing WWTP, although within licensed conditions, is of poor quality and below that which modern treatment is able to produce.
“Future compliance with the UWWTR will reduce the risk of failure of the Water Framework Directive due to the point source pollution in the estuary and this is considered a significant benefit of the upgrade.”
EPA inspector Suzanne Wylde confirmed the new WWTP in Shannon is included in the 2010 to 2012 Water Services Investment Programme as a scheme at the planning stage.
“The initial phase will be commenced once funding for contracts has been awarded from the Department of the Environment (DOE). Discussions held between the department inspector for the WWTP and the agency resolved that it is realistic to anticipate Phase One of the upgrade on the WWTP to be completed no later than December 31, 2015.
“As such, Schedule C1 Programme of Improvements requires that the WWTP be upgraded to treat a capacity of 35,000 no later than December 31, 2015.”
At the time of going to press, the Department of the Environment had not responded to queries from The Clare Champion.