Noonan calls for a comprehensive and integrated overflow early warning system on pumping stations

Serious pollution incident in River Nore in 2018 highlighted ‘serious deficiencies’ in the alarm system.

Irish Water and Kilkenny County Council need to urgently implement a modern system of early detection and warning for the overflow outlets of all waste water pumping stations in Kilkenny City. That is the view of Cllr Malcolm Noonan who raised the matter at the April meeting of Kilkenny County Council. He also said that the Council and Irish Water failed to notify respective agencies and the general public in a timely manner following a serious pollution incident into the River Nore at Maudlin St in July 2018.

‘This was a very serious spillage into the River Nore; a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive. It took place at a time when the river was at a historic low due to the dry, warm summer and at a time when recreational users of the river should have been notified immediately that the river was unsafe for people and animals’

Cllr Noonan

‘Often referred to as ‘fatbergs’, the inappropriate dumping of materials and waste oils down toilets and foul sewers is becoming a big problem for water authorities globally. This is not the fault of the Council or Irish Water, it is however unacceptable that public bodies were not notified in a timely manner and that a press statement on the issue and how it was to be remedied was not issued immediately following the incident’

Cllr Noonan.

At the April meeting of Kilkenny County Council, Cllr Noonan questioned why agencies such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were not notified for a number of days following the incident which was caused by a build up of material such as baby wipes in the system.

‘Furthermore, it transpires that only one of 17 pumping stations which pump waste water to Purcellsinch Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) is fitted with a SCADA (Supervisory, Control and Data Acquisition) early warning and monitoring system. Three of the 17 pumping stations are major stations and of these, only the Market Yard Station has such a system in place. The Maudlin Street pumping station did not have an early warning system in place despite a recommendation of a scheme being in place since 2007. It is my understanding that funding was the issue at that time’ said Cllr Noonan. 

Cllr Noonan said that it was confirmed to him at the April council meeting that the SCADA system would be fitted to all pumping stations and integrated through a single monitoring database to prevent such incidents in the future. ‘It was confirmed at the meeting that the new system would be installed across the treatment plant pumping network as part of a major new upgrade programme’ he said. 

He said that the local authority and Irish Water should have in place a far more rigorous regime of reporting both to agencies and in communicating any further incidents to the public via a press statement. He also said that the general public and business community in Kilkenny should be aware of the danger posed by discarding inappropriate material into the waste water system. 

‘These fatbergs are not just financially costly but as we saw with an incident of this scale and in high summer, can be very costly to the ecology of the river. I would appeal to people not to discard of baby wipes or other material down toilets or directly into foul sewers. I find it astonishing that Irish Water are not obliged by law to inform the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) following an incident of this nature.  It is simply unacceptable that we do not inform all stakeholders in a timely manner’ concluded Cllr Noonan.