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Sewer capacity crisis stymies development

Words: Roger Milne
Derelict and vacant land / iStock-518709582

Lack of funding for the public sewerage system is threatening development across Northern Ireland.

Publicly owned Northern Ireland Water this week released details of the location of nearly 50 wastewater treatment plants that are at, or near capacity.

In areas where the existing public sewerage system is currently operating above design capacity, Northern Ireland Water is not currently approving new connections to the existing public sewerage network. This is because further connections will cause sewer flooding and affect existing customers. 

The utility estimates that it needs an extra £140 million to make all the improvements needed.

Northern Ireland Water chief executive Sara Venning said: “Every aspect of life in Northern Ireland relies on the water and wastewater services we provide. NI Water has been warning for some time that the funding deficit we are operating with would eventually start impacting on investment and delivery.

“We started 2015 from a constrained capital expenditure position. Further public expenditure cuts mean that around £55 million of projects will not be delivered. These are projects such as new water mains or upgraded wastewater treatment plants needed to connect new houses and underpin wider economic growth.

“Without adequate investment, there will be further impacts on service delivery, the local economy and the environment.”

Parts of the capital as well as Dungannon, Larne, Limavady and Lurgan are among the areas affected.

A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “The department works closely with NI Water and the utility regulator to determine the levels of funding required to deliver services. Funding for NI Water, however, has to be balanced against the needs of transport and other services within the overall allocation provided to the DfI.”

Image credit | iStock