04/11/2011

Fuel Laundering Operation Hits Water Supplies

Illegal fuel laundering is doing more damage than just costing the Exchequer lost revenue.

It emerged yesterday that damage in Co Tyrone, at Aughnacloy Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW), was caused by by-products of a suspected fuel laundering operation - where agricultural 'red' diesel is stripped off the colouring and sold on as legitimate fuel.

Now, NI Water (NIW) and Dungannon & South Tyrone Council are appealing to the local community to help the plant in the future.

They said that it has suffered from ongoing damage by suspected fuel laundering, which is causing pollution, impacting on water quality and damaging equipment at the plant.

"The plant is suffering because of acid that has been poured into the sewer system by suspected fuel launderers. The acid kills bacteria used in the treatment process to break down human waste and damages essential equipment needed for the entire process," said a statement from NIW.

NIW has already spent £33,000 replacing the corrugated plastic discs within treatment tanks in the Co Tyrone plant because of this suspected fuel laundering in the previous three years, and are now are expecting to spend an additional £41,000 this year and these costs could rise further to £89,000.

Michael McAlary, Wastewater Services Manager for the area said: "We would appeal for the support of everyone to help stop this.

"Those carrying out these acts are damaging their own community, as these incidents are causing pollution and having a negative impact on water quality of the nearby river course. The cost of repairing the damage is also a huge factor.

"Repairing the tanks creates a needless drain on extremely limited resources that could be better used to improving and enhancing our services to the local community."

The Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Cllr Kenneth Reid added: "The council is appealing for an end to this ongoing damage to the plant.

"This suspected fuel laundering is damaging the treatment process and impacting on the local water quality. The costs associated with repairing damage will ultimately impact on budgets and planned projects to update and improve water systems."

The NIW statement urged that if any member of the public witnesses any suspicious activities around NI Water sites or around the sewer network, particularly out of working hours, they are encouraged to report this to the PSNI. Any other information can be reported to NI Water's customer relations team via Waterline on 08457 440088.

(BMcC)

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