Scheme could cost up to £9.5 million

A spat over sewage?

A split has emerged in the Manx parliament over how to solve the problem of raw, untreated sewage being pumped into the sea at Peel.

At present, raw waste from the town is drained by gravity to a pumping station on the promenade at Shore Road, then discharged into the Bay through an outfall pipe

Many have complained about the impact this has on the quality of Peel’s bathing water and the health of those swimming in the sea.

Manx Utilities (MU) has received Tynwald’s backing to progress with a regional strategy and build a treatment works for the town.

A site has been purchased half a mile away from Peel, and MU engineers are working on designs for the facility to be placed there and connected to the pumping station. Plans to extend the outfall pipe aren’t included.

The strategy, which could cost up to £9.5 million has been criticised by scrutinisers though, who are concerned the costs could build up in future.

What issues have been identified?

The Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee (EIC) made a series of recommendations in an interim report, which was debated in Tynwald last week (15 May).

It suggested a cost review be undertaken after it found issues with Manx Utilities’ calculations. The committee also asked that any strategy include an extended outfall pipe, and that a wider economic impact study been undertaken.

These recommendations were rejected by the Court.

The body, chaired by Onchan MHK Rob Callister, was fiercely criticised by the two Peel and Glenfaba MHKs Geoffrey Boot and Ray Harmer for ‘attempting to delay progress’.

The two members of the Council of Ministers delivered passionate speeches on how the strategy must go ahead as soon as possible.

The chairman of Manx Utilities, Dr Alex Allinson MHK, expressed his disappointment with the committee for not taking into consideration an independent report into the strategy commissioned by his body.

The committee defended its findings, citing its duty to scrutinise and said serious questions remain over the costs and direction of the scheme.

Mud-slinging over experts and witnesses?

During the sitting of parliament each side of the debate called into question the advice relied upon by the other.

An external review undertaken by MW Barber Associates was commissioned by MU to analyse the options and costs for the strategy and published this year.

Committee member Chris Robertshaw said this consultant had been involved in assessing previous sewerage works on the Island, and as a result deliberately ignored what he termed ‘legacy issues’ in Douglas.

Mr Robertshaw called this report ‘far from independent’ and a ‘dangerous precedent’ for reviewing major infrastructure projects.

Those who opposed the committee’s view called into question the integrity of one of its witnesses, Mr David Jones.

The engineer from Peel’s approach first sparked the committee’s interest in the strategy, and he made numerous submissions during its investigation.

MU chairman Dr Allinson claimed the committee gave ‘undue weight’ to Mr Jones’ evidence, and said the engineer had a clear conflict of interest.

Mr Jones, who is a Liberal Vannin member, owns land adjacent to where a sewage treatment plant for Peel had been previously considered, and as a result had conducted his own research into the regional strategy.

He highlighted to the committee a number of inconsistencies in MU’s calculations.

Following a two hour debate, Tynwald reject a number of the committee’s requests.

What happens next?

Manx Utilities is now in the process of designing a treatment works at Glenfaba House for Peel. It’ll be connected to the pumping station via a new pipe laid along East Quay.

The designs will then go out for public consultation, to Treasury, and through the planning process.

Dr Allinson admits the strategy isn’t yet a done deal, but is confident it will deliver a ‘cost effective and modern solution to Peel’s sewage problem’.