NI Water has been fined £16,500 today (23 November) after it pleaded guilty to polluting the Ballygawley Water River in County Tyrone.

Dungannon Crown Court heard how water quality inspectors, acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), inspected the Ballygawley Water River in May 2017.

The waterway was observed to be cloudy in appearance with extensive grey fungal growth on the river bed.

Significant quantities of sewage related debris were also present in the waterway and trapped on the banks. While no “fish kill” occurred, fish were observed to be in a distressed state within the polluted waterway.

The pollution was traced upstream for a distance of 1.2 kilometres to an actively discharging outfall pipe on the NI Water sewerage network serving Ballygawley.

In a statement, an NI Water spokesperson said: “NI Water takes its responsibility to the environment with the utmost seriousness, having invested approximately £500 million in the network over the last three years, helping make our rivers and beaches the cleanest that they have ever been.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion, we failed to maintain the highly exacting standards that we set ourselves. These incidents occurred due to a defect in the sewer combined with several blockages caused by inappropriate items such as wipes, with staff even recovering a metal pole,” added the spokesman.

“Staff acted quickly in responding to these incidents and NI Water have invested significant time and resources taking remedial actions to mitigate the risk of such an occurrence arising in the future.

“However, no amount of investment or work will completely stop blocked pipes if people continue to flush wipes (including those labelled as flushable), sanitary items and cotton buds down the toilet.  We need our customers to help us in this battle by being mindful of what they flush.”