Sewage soaked sand bags left to rot in NI street after flood

Sewage soaked sand bags in the Wakehurst estate, Lurgan
Sewage soaked sand bags in the Wakehurst estate, Lurgan
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Fears for residents’ safety have been voiced after government agencies refused to remove contaminated sandbags from a Lurgan housing estate.

Weeks after the second major flood in the area, sandbags saturated with sewage remain at Wakehurst estate in Lurgan.

Resident Paula Leathem said she is confused as to why they haven’t been removed.

“They are currently stacked on the footpaths and children are playing on them,” she said. “They’re stinking and need to be removed. They are a health and safety hazard.”

She said the whole area of Shankill had been badly flooded in July past and last year also, and residents had been very grateful for the sandbags in the first place but wondered why they couldn’t be taken away by either the council or the Department for Infrastructure.

She praised SDLP Cllr Declan McAlinden for organising the sandbags and helping with plastic liners and the clean up afterwards.

The area around Dean’s Walk in Wakehurst Estate and surrounding areas have been plagued with flooding in recent years. Their situation is so bad that the Rivers Agency has supplied a bunker for the sandbags for use in the event of flooding.

However, though they deliver the sandbags to the bunker, they refuse to remove them.

Councillor McAlinden said he thought it was ridiculous that the onus of disposing of used sandbags fell on the home owners.

He said he and party colleagues had arranged to collect the sandbags and dispose of them at the local amenity site only to find out at the last minute the Council amenity site would not take them.

“It is nothing short of scandalous that the best advice I received was to split the sandbags and spread the sand over a grass field. I found this preposterous as we are talking about 100+ sandbags! It is not acceptable for me to go onto private land, spread the sand over a field and potentially be reported to council for fly tipping.”

“Not only were council not going to assist with the disposal of sandbags, they simply rejected residents who needed assistance to claim compensation for flooding. Residents who became a victim of flooding for the second time within a year lost out to compensation by a mere one and a half week.”

Cllr McAlinden said he planned to bring the matter before Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council as he found it appalling that there was not a coordinated system in place to deal with such situations.

“As the weather is becoming more unpredictable and the increase in flooding, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with urgently,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said: “Following flooding in areas of Lurgan on 28 July 2018, DfI was requested to provide sandbag bunkers in areas of Lurgan. DfI liaised with local representatives and locations were agreed for the deployment of small storage bunkers. These bunkers are stocked with approximately 200 sandbags and are located in the Deans Walk area in Lurgan and the local community have access to these in cases of flood emergency.

“During the weekend 19-21 July 2019, there was heavy rain that resulted in flooding affecting areas of Lurgan; it is the Department’s understanding that the local community accessed the sandbag bunkers, which DfI replenished over that weekend.

“DfI and the other drainage agencies have provided many sandbag bunkers throughout Northern Ireland for the use of the public during flooding emergencies and much of this work is co-ordinated through the multi-agency Regional Community Resilience Group (RCRG) who assist communities to be more resilient to the effects of flooding. However, post flooding DfI and the other drainage agencies has no remit regarding the collection and disposal of sandbags. Residents and communities are encouraged to safely dispose of the sandbags by opening and spreading sand on lawns or take the sandbags to their local recycling facility.”