'Enhanced treatment required but Lough Neagh water is safe to drink,' says NI Water

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NI Water has offered an assurance to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council over drinking water from Lough Neagh.

During a presentation at a council meeting on Monday evening, councillors were told it “remains to be safe”.

Airport Sinn Fein Councillor Annemarie Logue asked about the impact of blue green algae which was visible in the lough last summer. An official said there had been “issues last year around taste” and there have been “some complaints about odour”.

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“It does require enhanced treatment but the water is safe and safe to drink,” he stated. “Blue green algae is a challenge and will be a challenge for years to come, I believe the expectation is that it will be back this year.”

Lough Neagh. Pic: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough CouncilLough Neagh. Pic: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council
Lough Neagh. Pic: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council

He stressed that NI Water would “do its best to ensure the quality of water” for customers. “It is safe and remains to be safe but odour is an issue for our customers.”

Antrim DUP Alderman John Smyth asked about the presence of micro plastics in water. The official said: “We test across all the problems out there. Micro plastics is an issue that the industry is trying to work through.”

Investment in the water network is scheduled in the Antrim south area at Dorisland, Stiles Way and Beltoy and Unagh. Investment in the waste water system is planned at Dunadry , Neillsbrook, Hightown Road and Whitehouse, Glenavy Road, Crumlin and Antrim drainage area.

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Councillors were advised all future investments are subject to funding by the Northern Ireland Executive. They also heard potential development sites are “heavily restricted” in terms of connection to NI Water’s infrastructure which NI Water has described as “a major concern”.

Capacity constraints, councillors were told, have resulted in flooding at Shore Road. They were also informed of “capacity constraints in all council areas across Northern Ireland”.

“Our message is to contact NI Water early before applying for planning permission. First submit a development inquiry. If there are capacity issues, applicants will be asked for an impact assessment for water and waste water,” an official stated. We will ask a developer to work with us and go through the proper process.”

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Of those recommended for refusal, he asked for developers to talk to NI Water “to find a technical solution”. “But we are running out of options in some areas,” he acknowledged.

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The council was asked to help raise awareness over damage caused by businesses disposing of fats, oils and grease inappropriately which can accumulate and result in “fatbergs”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter