Council to examine sewage health hazard at Ballinfoyle Park

Galway City Council is to produce a comprehensive report on the sewerage system in the Ballinfoyle Park area amid reports of sewage oozing out in back gardens and green areas.

The plight of some residents in Ballinfoyle Park was outlined at a meeting of the local authority this week when councillors were asked to approve the Part 8 planning process of a development which would see the fire damaged number 59 Ballinfoyle Park demolished and replaced by a two storey dwelling and number 60 into a three bedroom house. Following public consultation a submission, in the form of a petition signed by 13 residents, was sent to the planning department.

The residents are concerned these works will create subsidence and further sewage problems as Galway City Council lacks “sufficient detailed knowledge of the direction, and the type of sewerage sytem in operation for the Ballinfoyle Park housing scheme” and a detailed survey is needed. The submission described how the difficulty with the sewerage system has been ongoing for a considerable period of time and that between 2012 and 2013 it “suffered catastrophic failure” leading to “untreated sewage pouring into several back gardens”. It said that despite numerous approaches to the council nothing has been done to decontaminate the affected properties. According to the residents, the “health hazard” has become such a worrying problem that the HSE has been asked to intervene and several public representatives including An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan have also been contacted. However, the situaton has been “left unattended for several months (specifically from November 2012 to February 2013 ) resulting in residents having to seek medical advice, and in some instances medical attention”. A number of residents have been advised by their GPs to refrain from utilising the contaminated areas as there is a “risk of potentially fatal diseases including meningitis, hepatitis, and e-coli”.

Director of services for housing and social inclusion, environment, recreation, and amenity Thomas Connell told the chamber that the submission has been fully examined and that concerns that the works will create subsidence and further problems are unfounded. An engineer’s report found that “there will be no additional foul or surface water flows imposed on the existing drainage system in the estate due to the reinstatement/redevelopment of houses 59 and 60”. Tenders for development will be sought in early August with work due to commence by the end of the year. Tenants at number 59 have been rehoused while number 60 has been used as a community house.

Having inspected the problems with sewage in person, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG ) said there are “serious issues” and that he wanted a commitment that they will be dealt with.

“Number 59 and 60 are a blight on the community, it takes away from the estate because of the condition they are in,” said Cllr Billy Cameron (Lab ) who then acknowledged that passing the Part 8 would a positive step forward in rehousing the people there and creating an extra house on the council’s housing stock.

“You wouldn’t see this in a third world country,” said Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF ) who noted that the problem has been going on for five years and the council has to listen to the concerns of residents.

Noting that there is a severe housing crisis in the city Cllr Anna Marley (SF ) said she would like to see the Part 8 passed but with the strict condition that the problems with sewerage system and drainage are dealt with.

A motion put forward by Cllr Catherine Connolly (Ind ) and seconded by Cllr Ollie Crowe was unanimously agreed calling for the Part 8 to be supported subject to a comprehensive report on the difficulties with the sewerage system in the Ballinfoyle area and for a timeframe for remedial works.

Agreeing that the two houses are a blight on the community, Mr Connell stressed that the council does take the submission seriously, that the problems with the sewerage system are being addressed by the drainage department and the council has no difficulty in meeting with residents. He added that insurance money received for the fire at number 50 came to €120,000 and will go towards the restoration of the two houses, which is estimated to cost around €230,000.

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