A €10m scheme aimed at bringing an end to the discharge of untreated wastewater into a prominent bay in West Cork is under way.

In recent years, the greening of Courtmacsherry Bay has been a regular summer phenomenon due to elevated nitrate levels. The extensive algae growth is primarily due to untreated domestic waste discharges along with agricultural runoffs.

Irish Water said the scheme will bring significant environmental, health, and economic benefits to residents of Courtmacsherry and Timoleague. Construction is expected to be completed within 18 months.

For almost two decades, locals have campaigned vigorously for the proper treatment of wastewater being discharged, at some points untreated, into the estuary which is a designated special protection area for up to 20,000 waterbirds yearly. Over 12 non-breeding species are associated with the bay.

Traffic disruption, however, is expected on the main 3.6km route between the villages where construction works will include a new wastewater treatment plant in Courtmacsherry village and a new wastewater pumping station in Timoleague.

Upgrade works to two existing pumping stations at Courtmacsherry are also planned along with the demolition of an existing septic tank at St Joseph’s Terrace in the village and the provision of a rising main along the coastal R601 road from Timoleague to Courtmacsherry.

Minister of State Jim Daly turned the sod to officially mark the start of construction in a scheme which will also improve the quality of the bathing waters in nearby Coolmaine.

With tourism and water-based activities playing a crucial role in all aspects of life in the bay, the minister said: “The importance of providing effective treatment of wastewater cannot be overstated, both for those who live and work here and for the many visitors to this most scenic part of West Cork.

Michael Tinsley, Irish Water’s infrastructure delivery manager, said the practice of discharging inadequately treated wastewater was no longer acceptable.

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