Pollution in park lake must be addressed says McCusker

A LOCAL councillor has hit out at the DoE for issuing a grant scheme on improving water quality while not dealing with “serious pollution issues” at Lurgan Park.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood this week announced a £100,000 scheme for groups improving water quality in their area.

“The competitive grant scheme is aimed at voluntary and community groups, local councils and other not-for-profit organisations,” said Ulster Unionist Cllr Colin McCusker.

The scheme, which has £100,000 to be spent before the end of March 2014, will award up to £10,000 for small projects which will contribute to the improvement of water quality in their local area.

Cllr McCusker said: While I welcome this scheme and the merits behind it, and the potential it has to achieve, I do have to query the logic in relation to the water quality in Lurgan Park.

“It has been known for quite a while now, that from time to time, Lurgan Lake suffers pollution from run-off, and what is known as ‘grey water’. This grey water is from washing machines and baths, and is being allowed to enter the wrong sewerage system, thus causing pollution and fish kills.

“So on the one hand we have the DOE Minister handing out money to groups to help improve water quality, but meanwhile the Northern Ireland Environment Agency is unable or unwilling to stop this type of pollution, which is their responsibility.

“What’s the point in Craigavon Council, or any local angling group for that matter, applying for £10,000 to improve the water quality in Lurgan Lake, when from time to time, the lake will be polluted – it just doesn’t make sense.

“I have no doubt that local community groups would like to work in partnership with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to stop the pollution of Lurgan Lake, rather than trying to improve the quality of their local water environment with one hand tied behind their back.”

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “Injecting £100,000 to improve Northern Ireland’s waterways should be welcome news.

“Councillor McCusker highlights an important water quality issue, which is the impact that misconnected domestic appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, can have on our waterways.”

He said the DoE has been working for a number of years to tackle this widespread problem.

Mr Attwood said it usually occurs when homeowners install new domestic appliances such as dishwashers or washing machines, or build an additional bathroom and mistakenly plumb the discharge to a storm water drain, rather than to the sewer.

The discharge flows to the nearest waterway where it causes pollution, rather than being discharged to the sewer where it will be properly treated.

The minister added that this can be every bit as serious as the ‘traditional’ forms of pollution such as farms or untreated sewage.”

Mr Attwood said: “Lurgan Park Lake has been checked and no significant impact from misconnections has been found.

“However, if the public is aware of specific or newly occurring problems, staff from my department shall be glad to investigate.

“Pollution comes from a myriad of sources, including the homes of ordinary members of the public.

“All of us have a part to play in preventing water pollution and making real changes to protect our environment. Public groups can apply for money to help them do so through my recently announced release of £100,000 in grants to improve water quality.”

A spokesperson for Craigavon Council said: “Lurgan Park Lake, is fed by two streams which council have no control over. With regards to the main stream feeding the lake, we are aware of grey water from other sources entering this stream and then the lake.

“We are unable to prevent this due to its sporadic nature, however, while seeing the frothy ‘grey’ water enter the lake, we have not seen any evidence of fish kill, due to this pollution or any other source of pollution.

“It is very hard to trace any source of pollution. In addition, council have undertaken a water assessment of the lake to determine its water quality and determine any pollutants which may be in the lake.”

The spokesperson said the council is set to make an application to the DoE in relation to the Water Quality Improvement scheme.