Sewage pollution at Kinnegar Lagoons is now so bad that I have been forced to take the problem to the European Parliament.
I have made the move after Holywood was left to suffer yet another smelly summer at the hands of Northern Ireland Water.
Fed up with the pollution and associated pong, I have arranged for an MEP to ask Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, what action the EU is taking to resolve the issue.
I am shocked to discover NI Water has shelved plans to fix the problem until 2013/14 - issues like the pollution at Kinnegar Lagoons proves the need for an Independent Environmental Protection Agency.
In August 2010 I was assured that Holywood would not have to ensure yet another smelly Summer but it's now clear that NI Water have been slow to stop the sewage smell which has been particularly bad in recent weeks. I have therefore arranged for an MEP to ask Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment if he is aware of the situation and what action the EU is taking.
Whilst awaiting a response from Commissioner Potočnik, I recently convened a meeting with Senior NI Water officials to find out why NI Water is prolonging the pollution problem. During my meeting I was shocked to discover that whilst a solution must be in place by 2015 due to regulatory requirements budgetary pressures meant that the scheme has been deferred until 2013/14 due to other competing priorities.
Whilst I am glad at the progress I have achieved to date including £100,000 to identify the cause and over £3.5m earmarked for a solution, implementation has been held up for far too long.
During my meeting I was also informed that bore hole soil samples are being taken to discover the extent of the pollution now caused and that more regular maintenance and de-silting of the Combined Sewer Overflows is taking place to reduce amount of raw sewage emptied into the Lagoons.
Whilst this work is welcome the impact has unfortunately been negligible and the full scheme is required without delay including closure of the Combined Sewer Overflows, a new Emergency Storage Tank and cleaning up the lagoons to remove the massive amounts of sewage which regularly causes the problematic pong. Planning Applications must be made as soon as possible to get things back on track. Local wildlife, residents, workers and commuters have suffered for far too long.
The entire situation proves yet again that an acceptable level of pollution exists in Northern Ireland. Without an Independent Environmental Protection Agency and strong enforcement action by the Department of the Environment, NI Water are able to drag their heels and continue pumping raw sewage into Kinnegar Lagoons. Alliance will continue to campaign for such an Agency despite the opposition of others.