Antiquated waste water and sewage infrastructure requires action

As Athlone continues to develop and enhance from an economic and population perspective, Town Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, has noted the urgent need to address and rectify the waste water and sewage infrastructure within the growth town.

“For nigh on twenty years there has been much talk about the need to tackle Athlone’s Victorian waste water and sewage infrastructure in the town. However, the need is greater now than ever. Athlone is a growing, vibrant and modern town, soon to be the home of Ireland’s newest university with the possibility of city status being acquired in the years to come.

“We have big plans to grow our population, attract investment, expand our business park, build new houses, become a top five tourism destination, build new bridges and much more. Furthermore, Athlone is identified as a key regional growth hub in the country, specifically for the wider Midland’s region and over the next five years there are numerous housing schemes planned for Athlone, a town which is now the educational, tourism and business capital of the Midlands.

“Yet, below our streets we have an antiquated waste water infrastructure which means that sewage continues to flow into our greatest natural asset, the River Shannon. Another effect of this outdated infrastructure is that at times of flooding, when water levels rise, our shores become overrun with sewage and this combination of waste water and sewage rises out of our manholes in certain low lying parts of the town.

“Particularly now, at a time when there is so much focus and awareness around public health, hygiene standards and the need to minimise the risk of infection to the public, the idea of sewage appearing on our streets should demand immediate and urgent action along with the necessary investment. With water levels as high as they are at this time, all eyes will be on the weather forecasts over the coming weeks,” Cllr O’Rourke remarked.

The Town Mayor stated that a new report conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency has detailed that Irish Water is failing to treat wastewater to national and European standards.

“A new report by Environmental Protection Agency has stated that Irish Water is failing to treat wastewater to national and European standards. The EPA has said delays in upgrading wastewater treatment systems around the country and are prolonging risks to the environment and public health.

“According to the report, raw sewage from 35 towns and villages flows into our environment every day, with 33 areas unlikely to receive treatment until after next year. Sadly, Athlone is one of these 33 areas.

“The EPA report says that Irish Water has ‘repeatedly revised its plans’ and ‘extended the time frame to provide treatment’ for towns and villages including those that are discharging raw sewage. Athlone is one of these towns.

“In a statement, Irish Water said despite some delays they expect to start work next year in 12 more communities where raw sewage is being discharged, with the work in the majority of the remaining areas to start in 2022 and 2023,” Cllr O’Rourke continued.

Following enquiries which the Fianna Fáil Councillor made to Irish Water, he was afforded a timeframe for the necessary infrastructural investment.

“Securing land acquisitions and wayleaves (CPO process ) will occur from November 2020 until August 2021. Issuing tender documents to the market will commence in January 2021 (four months tender period ). Tender assessment and final scorecard will be issued on October 12 2021. Irish Water approval and New Era Governance will commence on October 12 2021 (an estimated 32 weeks process ), while the final contract will be awarded on June 13 2022.

“While I welcome this detail, I am disappointed that it will take as long as this to even get to site. We have been here before, this project was due to commence last year but was shelved, setting us back a further five years.

“I will most certainly be maintaining the pressure on Irish Water to ensure that Athlone finally gets the investment it so desperately needs as we aim to make positive strides within our town,” Cllr O’Rourke concluded.


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