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Wednesday, 26th June 2019

Water quality in Carlingford Lough to be improved in €35m EU scheme

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Pictured at the Shared Waters Enhancement & Loughs Legacy (SWELL) project yesterday were (from left): Pamela Arthurs, East Border Region, Michael O'Leary, Irish Water, Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency, Eoghan Murphy, TD, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Gina McIntyre, SEUPB, Denis McMahon Permanent Secretary, DAERA, Paul Harper, NI Water and Matt Service, AFBI. Photo: Michael Cooper.

A major cross-border project which aims to improve water quality in Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle through enhanced wastewater treatment was officially launched yesterday in Derry.

The Shared Waters Enhancement and Loughs Legacy (SWELL) project, which has been awarded €35m under the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, will see the construction of new wastewater treatment works as well as upgrades to sewerage networks on both sides of the border to address wastewater pollution in Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle.

The four-year project – which is being led by Northern Ireland Water working in partnership with Irish Water, the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Loughs Agency and East Border Region - will culminate in the development of a unique environmental legacy model that can be used to achieve further improvements in water quality in these shared waters.

The work being carried out under the SWELL project will involve a total of eight wastewater infrastructure upgrades, as well as catchment studies and ecosystem modelling, within the Carlingford Lough drainage basin (within Newry, Mourne & Down and Louth County Council areas) and the Lough Foyle drainage basin (comprising Derry City & Strabane and Donegal council areas).

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The improvements to the wastewater assets will help contribute to raising the current EU Water Framework Directive status of ‘moderate’ to ‘good’.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.

Officially launching the SWELL project, Eoghan Murphy, TD, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland, stated: “Without safe and reliable water and wastewater infrastructure, social and economic development cannot happen. So I am pleased to be here today to officially launch the SWELL project which will play an important role in improving water quality in Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle through cross-border partnership working.”

The unique ecosystem model being developed through SWELL, will link various aspects of environmental modelling such as urban drainage, river, coastal and ecology, undertaken in the catchments of the respective loughs over the lifecycle of the project.

Through extensive investigations and use of innovative modelling techniques, the SWELL ecosystem model will be able to track the pathways of nutrients and contaminants of wastewater, industrial or agricultural sources to determine their impact on the receiving waters. This legacy model will assist the water utilities and regulatory bodies on both sides of the border by identifying best approaches to achieving further improvement of overall water quality in the future.

Announcing the funding Gina McIntyre, CEO of the SEUPB which is responsible for the management of the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, said: “Nature does not respect geographical borders between regions, therefore cross-border cooperation is vital if we are to help protect our shared environment. This project represents a significant and long-term investment from the European Union in the water quality of the entire region. It is a testament to what can be achieved when two jurisdictions work together to help address a common problem.”

Pollution problems can only be tackled effectively on a cross-border basis- Breathnach

Fianna Fáil TD for Louth and East Meath Declan Breathnach said the €35m investment in Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle illustrates the need to tackle environmental issues on a cross-border basis. 

Deputy Breathnach explained, “This investment, which will help improve the water quality status of Carlingford Lough, will also see the upgrading of sewerage networks in the county. This move will alleviate pollution problems in Carlingford Lough, which is badly needed considering at present, the equivalent of 800 wheelie bins of raw sewage is discharged into the Lough every day.” 

“Once works have taken place, which it is envisioned will happen by the end of 2021, the water quality standard will be raised from moderate to good. This will have far reaching benefits and will set out a framework for future projects of this nature. 

“Louth County Council and Newry, Mourne & Down District Council have collaborated over many years to tackle the polluters, who have long plagued both sides of the border. It is good to see these efforts rewarded by EU investment and further demonstrates the need to tackle environmental issues on cross-border basis”, he concluded.

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