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The Vartry river in Wicklow feeds into the plant that provides drinking water to the area. Shutterstock/zkbld
Watering Wicklow

Irish Water to pump €200 million into plant to avoid undrinkable water

Not everyone is in favour with the first major upgrade in 150 years of the Vartry scheme.

IRISH WATER PLANS to spend €200 million upgrading the Vartry Water treatment plant after receiving planning permission from Wicklow County Council.

The upgrade comes as the Vartry water supply scheme and the Mid-Wicklow supplies have been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as being at risk of failing to meet the requirements of the national safe drinking water standards.

Irish Water have welcomed the decision by Wicklow County Council with project manager with Irish Water Geoff O’Sullivan stating, “We welcome this planning permission as an important step in securing the drinking water to the Vartry Water Supply area of north Wicklow and south Dublin.

“The scheme has had no major upgrade since it was built over 150 years ago and is now in need of urgent investment. Irish Water will invest up to €200 million in the upgrade of this priority project.”

Construction on the project is expected to start in late 2017, early 2018 and is expected to take 36 months to complete.

However, Social Democrats councillor Jennifer Whitmore of Greystones expressed disappointment that the project got planning permission. “I’m disappointed [the scheme] got planning permission without an environmental impact statement.

“I do understand the need for an upgrade of the system, but there is a need to balance this with environmental concerns.”

Needs more information

Cllr Whitmore went on to state that she wasn’t for or against the upgrade but a scheme of this size needs to have all the information available to make a full decision on the project.

Two groups in the area have been objecting to the upgrade to the Vartry water supply scheme on environmental grounds, the Vartry Anglers Conservation Club and River Vartry Protection Society.

Luke Drey of the Vartry Anglers Conservation Club said about the project, “It’s about responsible management of the river [Vartry] basin and [Irish Water] are looking to extract further water from the catchment”.

Mr Drey and the Vartry Anglers Conservation Club are concerned with the effects of extracting more water from the river might have on current fish stocks as well as on the ecology of the area.

Mr Drey said that this issue is strong within the community and they plan on taking their objections further, “We’re going to object to An Bord Pleanála, then to the judicial. the High Court, the Supreme Court and then to Europe if we have to” said Mr Drey.

In a statement released by Irish Water they have said that the project will not be abstracting any additional water from the River Vartry.

“Irish Water confirm they will not be abstracting any additional water from the River Vartry. The proposed works will improve the quality of drinking water from a plant that is 150 years old and meet current drinking water standards.

“The future operation of the water treatment plant will ensure that flows in the river downstream from the plant will have the added benefit of guaranteeing at least 5 million litres per day is always released to the river.”

No major upgrade in 150 years

The Vartry plant currently services over 200,000 people across north Wicklow and south Dublin, was constructed over 150 years ago and according to Irish Water has not received a major upgrade since it was built.

The upgrade will allow Irish Water to extend the supply network from Vartry to other areas in Mid-Wicklow including  Rathdrum, Avoca, Annamoe, and Redcross among others.

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