A reed beds system.

Belturbet reed beds gets go ahead

Irish Water is to progress an innovative wastewater project in Belturbet trialling a sustainable environmental engineering solution to water treatment.

Cavan County Council planners gave the green light to the project subject to eight conditions.

Irish Water contacted the local authority in January notifying the council of its plan to construct the “research pilot project” at the Belturbet Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Irish Water trial research pilot project at Belturbet Wastewater Treatment Plant will see the installation of reed beds as a way of sustainably managing water treatment sludge.

In total six reed beds will be installed at the facility at Naughan on the outskirts of the Erneside town.

Plans were lodged at the start of the year by Irish Water with the council's planning department detailing the proposal to construct the 'Alum Sludge Drying Reed Beds Small Scale Trial Facility' consisting of six sludge drying reed beds, each 11.0m2 in size.

The approval covers the building of a single 10m3 sludge tank, together with all associated site works.

Previously a spokesperson for Irish Water explained the purpose of the initiative: “It is intended that the research project will look at how Irish Water can improve ways in which residual materials arising from producing drinking water can be managed. Irish Water plans to investigate if reed beds consisting of layers of gravel and sand planted with reeds will be effective in separating solids from water treatment residuals.”

The reed beds process is based on a natural treatment process and could provide for sustainable, long-term management of water treatment residuals. Other beneficial characteristics of this process are that it would be a more cost effective way to manage and dewater these residuals compared with current methods; provide a habitat that will support a wide range of biodiversity; and act as natural carbon sequester, removing carbon from the atmosphere. The use of reed beds would furthermore reduce the need for chemicals within the treatment process, and hopefully produce a cleaner filtrate material than conventional systems.

Irish Water submitted a 35-page Nature Impact Statement (NIS) on the impact of the project in the area. Concerns raised that were considered by the planners included: Provision of a Noise Impact Statement, the site's location in a flood zone, biosecurity measures to be considered during construction, the prevention of pollution , and the submission of proposals to decommission and restore the site at its end of life. It is expected that the pilot reed beds will be constructed within six months.

The research will take approximately three years to complete.