Wipes and ‘fogs’ in Ross loos tied to closure of Warren strand

January 26th, 2023 11:55 AM

By Jackie Keogh

A sunny day last July at the Warren, but the beach was closed in August due to issues with the local sewage treatment plant. Irish Water says people flushing unsuitable items down local toilets was partly the cause. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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IN a bid to combat ‘nasty’ blockages in the wastewater network in Rosscarbery and Owenahincha, Irish Water and Cork County Council are calling on local homeowners and businesses to think before they flush.

Last August, bathing was prohibited at the Warren Strand in Rosscarbery after raw sewage was seen floating in the water.

The swimming ban only lasted for about a day, but locals claim the problem was caused by an overflow of a wastewater treatment plant that serves both Rosscarbery and Owenahincha.

Irish Water confirmed it has been necessary to increase network maintenance due to blockages caused by wet wipes, cotton buds and sanitary products being flushed down local toilets.

John FitzGerald of Irish Water told The Southern Star about the size and scale of the problem associated with flushing the wrong things down the toilet.

‘Removing blockages in the wastewater network can be a nasty job,’ he said.

‘Sometimes our crews must enter sewers to remove blockages with shovels or use jetting and suction equipment.

‘This can be easily resolved by changing what we flush down the toilet,’ he suggested. He said a recent survey revealed that more than 110,000 people living in Cork continue to regularly flush wipes and other sanitary items down the toilet.

Mr FitzGerald said Irish Water wanted to raise awareness and highlight the impact this can have on the wastewater treatment plant in Rosscarbery and Owenahincha.

It’s a system that local politicians say is not big enough, or modern enough, to meet local capacity, especially during the busy tourism season.

Irish Water said the flushing of unsuitable items down the toilet means they can end up in our rivers, beaches and seas, and can affect water quality and marine life.

They say a simple solution is to put a bin in the bathroom, and only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – down the toilet.

Everything else – including items that manufacturers deem ‘flushable’ – belongs in the bin.

Mr FitzGerald also appealed to homeowners and businesses in the Rosscarbery and Owenahincha area to reduce the amount of fats, oils and grease – otherwise known as Fogs – being poured down the sink.

‘Fogs are liquid when poured,’ said the utility spokesperson, ‘but they cool and harden as they travel along the pipe network and can cause blockages in our homes, businesses, the public sewer network and wastewater treatment plants.’

The presence of these types of ‘fatbergs’ can lead to overflows of sewage in community settings and the pollution of local waterways.

When combined with wipes and other sewage related litter, such as hair and dental floss, the Fogs can form fatbergs.

Already, it has become a major problem nationwide as Irish Water confirmed it is engaging crews to clear hundreds of blockages, including fatbergs, from the nation’s wastewater network every week.

Mr FitzGerald estimated that approximately eight out of every 10 blockages are caused by inappropriate items being flushed down the toilet, combined with Fogs.

In a bid to combat the problem, Irish Water is working with food service establishments in Cork city – which include restaurants, takeaways and establishments where food is prepared – to provide advice on best kitchen management for the prevention of blockages.

They are also working to ensure that they have a fats, oils and grease trade effluent licence in place.

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