Northern Ireland Water has been fined £16,500 after it pleaded guilty today at Dungannon Crown Court to polluting the Ballygawley Water River in Co. Tyrone.

On May 9, 2017, water quality inspectors acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) inspected the Ballygawley Water River.

The waterway was observed to be cloudy in appearance with extensive grey fungal growth on the river bed.

Significant quantities of sewage-related debris were also present in the waterway and trapped on the banks. While no fish were killed, fish were observed to be in a distressed state within the polluted waterway.

The pollution was traced upstream for a distance of 1.2km to an actively discharging outfall pipe on the NI Water sewerage network serving Ballygawley.

In accordance with procedures, the NIEA Inspectors collected a statutory sample of the discharge. Further investigation confirmed that the polluting discharge was occurring as a result of an overflow from Ballygawley Chapel Combined Sewer Overflow.

‘Low flow and dry conditions’

The discharge was occurring during low flow conditions and in dry weather. NI Water was contacted following set procedures and they subsequently contacted a water quality inspector later that afternoon to say they had taken remedial action to stop the discharge.

On the morning of May 11, 2017, during a follow-up visit, inspectors discovered that there was still a grey polluting discharge occurring.

Investigations revealed the incident was occurring as a result of a further discharge of untreated sewage from the same Ballygawley Chapel Combined Sewer Overflow.

NIEA Inspectors noticed that the metal sides of the channel carrying untreated sewage were damaged allowing untreated sewage to flow through gaps in the sides of the channel.

Sewage was then discharging to a storm pipe at the base of the sewer overflow chamber before discharging to the Ballygawley Water River.

The discharge pathway was confirmed by a dye test. The NIEA Inspector contacted NI Water at this time and who said they would carry out repair work to stop the discharge.

On the evening of May 11, 2017, during a further follow-up investigation, the NIEA water quality inspector confirmed that the remedial work had been carried.

Continuing problems

However, the inspector discovered that NI Water owned outfall pipe into the Ballygawley Water River was still discharging a grey polluting matter.

The source of this polluting matter was then traced to a discharge from the NI Water owned Combined Sewer Overflow at Ballygawley Tennis Courts where untreated sewage was seen overflowing.

The water quality inspector contacted NI Water to report the incident and requested that the discharge be stopped immediately.

On the morning of May 12, 2017, a water quality inspector returned to the area and found that the Ballygawley Tennis Courts CSO was still overflowing to the Ballygawley Water River. This was confirmed this with a dye test.

All samples taken confirmed that the discharges contained poisonous, noxious or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway.

Anyone wishing to report a pollution incident can call the 24-hour Water Pollution Hotline on: 0800-80-70-60.