Irish Water has begun inspections into overloading of Mitchelstown's sewerage system

Irish Water officials have started an investigation to find out who is responsible for discharging more effluent than permitted into a town's sewerage system, amid concerns that this is seriously damaging its future viability.

Cork County Council officials have confirmed that Irish Water's source control section has begun carrying out inspections at existing industrial connections in Mitchelstown to ensure that all discharges are compliant with licences.

Businesses can get licences to discharge effluent into the public sewerage treatment system.

However, more waste than permitted has been discharged into the Mitchelstown system which is now at full capacity.

Council officials have said that if excess discharges are stopped they believe it will create extra capacity.

Cllr Frank O'Flynn told a meeting of the council's Northern Division that the capacity issue was having a huge effect on the town's future growth.

He said the lack of capacity "was frightening off developers" because they believe that, as a result, they won't get planning permission for housing or industrial units.

Cllr June Murphy said it was having a huge impact on the town's development.

"Whoever is to blame should be held to account and should be made to pay," she said.

Meanwhile, the council has been liaising with Irish Water about upgrading the sewerage treatment plant.

In a report to councillors, County Engineer Kevin Morey said the project had been included in the Irish Water capital investment plan and it was at detailed design stage.

Mr Morey said planning and procurement stages will follow and construction is expected to commence in the second half of 2020 with completion likely before the end of 2021.

Cllr Deirdre O'Brien said the upgrade of the treatment plant was vital for the town's further expansion and that councillors "would have to keep the pressure on" Irish Water to ensure the timelines given were adhered to.

Cllr O'Flynn, however, said he wasn't happy with those timelines and maintained they couldn't wait until 2021 for the upgrade to be completed as Mitchelstown could lose out on the current economic buoyancy being enjoyed by other parts of the country.

Assistant county manager James Fogarty said council officials were at one point concerned that the project may never happen.

Mr Fogarty said Mr Morey's report was the strongest indication to date that Irish Water was fully committed to it and as such was very good news for the council and the town itself.

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