The Velvet Strand set for five years of sewage

by Gazette Reporter

PORTMARNOCK’S Blue Flag beach could face repeated closures due to sewage overflows for the next five years, Irish Water has admitted.
The Velvet Strand – declared safe to swimmers last Thursday after a bathing ban of almost two weeks – will face the threat every time the nearby pumping station comes under pressure from heavy rainfall.
In a statement the water company apologised for the series of failures that led to closures at Portmarnock, Balbriggan and Skerries. But it warned that particular “challenges” meant the Portmarnock problem needed a longer term solution.
A spokesperson said: “In periods of intense rainfall, such as we have had for the past two weekends, the drainage system is designed to overflow into nearby water, causing a short-term pollution incident but more importantly avoiding the flooding of premises and streets with sewage and run off.”
The overloaded sewer network across Fingal simply can’t cope with a rapid rise in the water level – and the final stage of the €85million upgrade needed is not due for completion until 2021.
Residents and bathers are outraged at the news and are demanding urgent action for fear the beach could lose its Blue Flag status.
David Kelly, spokesman for Portmarnock Community Association, said: “Our biggest concern is the effect it has on our strand. We clean the beach every two weeks during the summer but the water quality is beyond our control.
“We have a Green Flag from An Taisce and Blue Flag status, which is a major tourist attraction. They should try to find the money somewhere because they need to sort it out.”
At their latest meeting councillors demanded that a task force be set up to tackle the issue. Cllr Tony Murphy (IA) said it was “not good enough” for Irish Water to say overflows can happen in heavy rainfall.
Councillors also expressed anger over the fact that despite a €5million upgrade the pumping station at Hampton Cove, Balbriggan, failed to cope with the deluge.
Cllr Grainne Maguire (GP) said the new facility clearly wasn’t up to the job and “isn’t doing what it should be doing”.
Irish Water said it would review the Balbriggan station’s capacity but admitted that a spell of dry weather followed by heavy rain could result in “high loads” up to 50 times the norm washing through the system over a short period of time.
A spokesperson for the utility added: “In simple terms, the pumps at Hampton Cove are not capable of dealing with these ‘shock’ events.”
Bans at Portmarnock’s Velvet Strand, Balbriggan Front Strand and Skerries South Beach were finally lifted last Thursday after water tests came back clear from the lab.

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