Irish Water said building work has begun on a hi-tech waste water treatment plant at Shanbally, a key element of the €91m Cork Lower Harbour Main Drainage Project.
And it said work will start over the coming months on the construction of 14 new pumping stations, on the laying of some 30kms of new sewers, and a drilled crossing under the estuary to Cobh.
It is hoped the plant will be operational by the end of 2016, immediately halving the volume of raw sewage discharge, before excavations start in harbour towns next year. Sewers won’t be installed in Cobh until 2018 to bring the entire project to completion.
Irish Water project manager, Déaglán Healy, said once the first phase of the project is operational by the end of next year, harbour communities will see almost immediate benefits.
“A sustainable wastewater treatment plant will bring health and environmental benefits to the growing local population as well as improved water quality for all who enjoy the wonderful natural resource,” he said.
Currently, untreated sewage from some of the harbour’s biggest towns, including Cobh, Carrigaline, Crosshaven, Passage West, Monkstown and Ringaskiddy— the equivalent of some 49,000 people — is dumped into the lower harbour through 33 discharge pipes.
The newproject will collect this raw sewage through pipes and redirect it to the Shanbally plant for treatment using Dutch-developed ‘Nereda’ technology.
The plant has capacity to treat sewage from a population of up to 80,000. The treated waste water will then be discharged into the estuary through an existing pipeline near Dog Nose Point.
Mr Healy said the scheme will significantly enhance the water quality in Cork Harbour, just as the city’s main drainage scheme did in the city centre, provide environmental protection to the region’s growing population and facilitate economic growth in the area.
Computer models predict its positive impacts will extend to the inner harbour, Lough Mahon, the north channel of Cobh and the outer harbour to Roches Point.
However, since the initial planning permission was granted in 2009, Irish Water has finalised the locations of pumping stations and a harbour pipeline.
An Bord Pleanála is now mounting a four-week period of public consultation, starting next Monday, to outline the changes. Irish Water said it will continue to engage with communities and stakeholders to keep them informed as works progresses.