Sunday 26 January 2020

It's back to digging up the streets

Few can forget Wexford's mammoth main drainage scheme which saw two decades of roadworks, during which almost every street in town was dug up. Now, as Maria Pepper reports, the diggers are coming back, this time to tackle an ageing sewer network and old backyard water pipes

1994: Main drainage works on Wexford’s South Main Street, as ‘the goose’ – the mascot of a PR campaign promoting 1994 the message, ‘We’re sorry, but it’ll be worth it’ – hitches a ride. Picture by Padraig Grant
1994: Main drainage works on Wexford’s South Main Street, as ‘the goose’ – the mascot of a PR campaign promoting 1994 the message, ‘We’re sorry, but it’ll be worth it’ – hitches a ride. Picture by Padraig Grant

Irish Water is set to dig up the streets of Wexford for water and sewerage works, 10 years after the completion of a €76 million main drainage scheme which caused major disruption in the town for over a decade.

The drainage scheme which was to solve much of the town's wastewater and flooding problems began in 1995 and was finally finished in 2009. It included the opening of the town's new quafront in 2000.

The entire town was dug up during the contract, forcing the local authority to organise a PR campaign to elicit the continued patience of inconvenienced business people and residents, using the slogan 'We're sorry, but it'll be worth it' which appeared on every street corner.

Now, Irish Water, as part of a new Wexford Drainage Area Plan, has announced that it is carrying out a survey of the sewer network which it said is in need of upgrading, along with plans to replace old backyard water pipes in areas around the town, to reduce leaks.

In relation to the town's sewage network, a spokesman for Irish Water said 'there is still a significant amount of information that needs to be gathered'.

'It is believed that some areas of the network, including pump stations may be operating close to capacity. Completing these necessary survey works will allow Irish Water to coplete a hydraulic model of the entire public wastewater. This will be used to assess capacity as well as identifying works required to enable future short term and long term planning in the catchment in an environmentally sustainable manner, taking accounts of impacts of growth, climate change, flooding, urban creep, inflow and infiltration'.

The spokesman said that other benefits of the Drainage Area Plan will include identification of potential overflow points from the wastewater network, assessment of sewer structural condition, identification of areas of infiltration to the wastewater network, identification of blockages and operational issues at pumping stations and raising mains associated with Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG's) across the network'.

In response to concerns raised by residents in traditional areas of the town where water service pipes are to be replaced, the spokesman said the work is being carried out under the company's National Leakage Reduction Programme.

The areas have been selected in the interests of water conservation as there are high levels of leakage associated with old 'backyard' mains.

'All of these backyard services are quite old, often comprise lead pipework and are generally in poor condition. There have been several recent issues with backyard mains in Wexford resulting in sudden loss of supply, leaks in private property, noise disruption and concerns in relation to lead pipework (eg Hantoon Road, Wolfe Tone Villas, Hill Street and Bishopswater).'

The spokesman said Irish Water is taking a proactive approach in replacing these servives in order to reduce leakage and avoid potential disruptive problems to local residents and businesses.

He said affected customers are being offered a modern, new water supply to replace their old and likely defective pipework free of charge.

'We would encourage people to sign up to these works to help us with water conservation and the delivery of a modern and reliable water service to the people of Wexford town', he said.

He said these works are currently in the surveying, information-gathering and investigative phase and once sufficient information is available to allow construction to start, residents, businesses and local media will be notified in advance.

'The initial locations for commencement of construction are dependant on the results of the surveying and investigative work underway'.

'For properties in these areas, there will be a number of potential solutions depending on the particular lay-out of the property, the existing plumbing arrangements in the property and the ground conditions present in the area.'

'We are currently determining which properties have backyard services and what the replacement options are for each property; these options will be discussed in full with each property owner for their agreement'.

The Irish Water spokesman said running an insulated service pipe in a false rainwater downpipe up the front wall of a terraced house is one of a number of solutions that has proven popular in other areas where backyard service replacment has taken place. He confirmed that as replacement requires work to take place in the homeowner's property, the consent of the homeowner will be needed in order to proceed. 'Once the preferred replacement solution has been identified, we will then request the property wner to complete a form consenting to the works taking place'.

Wexford People

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