Senator Michelle Mulherin has challenged Irish Water to come clean on its plans for its Ballina Waste Water Treatment plant at Belleek amid concerns in the town that there are moves underway to develop the site as a sludge hub for Mayo.
Following a meeting between Irish Water and public representatives in Ballina on Monday, Senator Mulherin said there were still a lot of unanswered questions even though the company had stated that there were no plans for a sludge hub in Ballina.
She said this week: "Irish Water stated that the works they are proposing will entail an upgrade of the de-watering facilities which would also provide for a 20 per cent increase in capacity and that Ballina will not be a sludge hub. They intend to apply for planning permission in four months or so.
"But they could not provide information about where additional sludge might come from, how many additional traffic movements there would be and the impact on odour emanating from the plant.
"Also, they couldn’t supply information in relation to de-watering centres for Castlebar and Westport and what that would entail and how the entire county is to be serviced. They have agreed to provide this information, including commissioning an odour study.
"Irish Water has agreed to a public consultation in relation to its plans and this is welcome. However, I am not satisfied on the details of its plans for Ballina and there are still a lot of unanswered questions and Irish Water needs to set out crystal clear what its plans are.
"There is also a serious doubt about the suitability of the plans for Belleek - an area of natural beauty on the banks of the River Moy, one of the best salmon fishing rivers in the world.
"There are already two waste-water treatment plants in the vicinity - the Irish Water facility and the one operated by Ballina Beverages.
"The Ballina facility already accepts sludge from some smaller waste-water treatment plants and domestic septic tanks for de-watering including Bonninconlon, Moygownagh, Ballycastle and Crossmolina.
"Belleek Park has been developed for tourism and a recreational amenity for town and is part of the developing Ballina to Killala Greenway. Any additional traffic on local roads would be detrimental to the residents of Belleek and the many hundreds of walkers, cyclists and athletes who enjoy this amenity on a daily basis.
"Therefore, any significant increase in the intake of sludge from other sites would represent a serious cause for concern. The intensification of activity on the current site to accommodate the import of sludge from outside our area should not happen in my view. We await the necessary detail to see what exactly is proposed."