Dublin Urban Rivers LIFE project inspecting properties – what this means

The Dublin Urban Rivers LIFE project is a collaboration between South Dublin County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the EU LIFE Programme.

Inspectors have started their work in the Gallops this week (May 10th) and estimate that they will be around for up to a year in Glencairn, Orby, Sandyford Hall and Ballyogan area.

They inspect houses from the outside to determine whether washing machines, dishwashers and showers are accidentally plumbed into the surface water network instead of the foul sewer network.

Why is this important?

Any foul water should be piped to Ringsend treatment plant for water treatment, whereas the surface water pipes lead directly into the Carrickmines stream. 

What’s a domestic misconnection?

Domestic misconnections are sometimes found at houses that had extension work or other building work done, and are caused by incorrectly plumbed washing machines and dishwashers which discharge to the rainwater drainage network which flows to the river rather than the foul sewer network. This causes water pollution and great danger to any wildlife around rivers and streams.

The Dublin Urban River LIFE is a demo project and if successful it might be adapted by other councils in Ireland and countries in Europe.

What if my property is been found to be misconnected?

We spoke to Paul Byrne, the stormwater assessor for South Dublin County Council and he said that misconnections can often be fixed easily and inexpensively. Most often it will only need a new pipe on the outside of the house to point to the correct drain. He noted that a misconnection is most often found after home improvements have been made, so he would recommend to first contact your initial builder and ask them to correct the pipe connections to the foul water drain. 

Usually this job can be done very quickly at minimal expense but it will make a huge difference to any wildlife, fish, frogs (when was the last time you’ve seen frog spawn in the local river?) and even your dog if they like to play in the water. 

What’s the problem? 

One of the main issues is phosphates (commonly found in washing-up liquid, laundry detergents and household cleaners).

Phosphates affect water quality by causing excessive growth of algae.

When algae grow out of control in water ecosystems this creates imbalances, which destroy other life forms and produce harmful toxins in streams, water systems and lakes. 

How do they do the inspections?

They don’t have to check every house as they have developed a very simple strategy to pinpoint any problems. Most manholes connect about 6 houses, so when they come to a new street they first inspect the manholes. If they’re dirty with grey sludge they know it’s coming from washing machines or dishwashers, and then they inspect the connected houses. Therefore they will probably only have to check about 10% of properties in the estate.

Currently, due to Covid restrictions, they will inspect houses only from the outside, they will always ring your bell before they enter and will show you South Dublin County Council IDs. When restrictions are lifted and they have permission they will ask to enter properties to inspect inside plumbing (especially with attic bathrooms) and give further advice on how to rectify any issues.

A very positive project in our area – let’s support them

This project is really positive for our area and environment, Paul Byrne and his team are here to help us at a local level to make small changes that will have great impact on our wildlife and surrounding environment. 

The overall project will run for 3 years and include about 12,000 houses within 2 council areas, stretching from Kilternan over Carrickmines and Loughlinstown to Shankhill.

You will probably see Paul and his team around the Gallops, feel free to ask him about the project. 

You might also find a notification like the one on the right in your post box – now you will know what this project is all about.

If you have any further questions you can call Paul Byrne at 086 0762681, the Project Co-ordinator Lorraine Beirne or Project Manager Richard Fitzpatrick at 01 4149 000 or email them at durl@sdublincoco.ie.

To find out more about the project you can visit South Dublin County Council website.

All images thanks to Slaney River Trust.

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