Irish Water says it hopes to be able to resubmit a planning application for a new treatment plant at Lough Talt within the next two months.
The provision of a new plant is a key requirement for the scheme that supplies water to people throughout a large area of south and west Sligo, 13,000 of whom are now on a boil water notice because of cryptosporidium in the system.
For years, the quality of the water from the Lough Talt scheme has been of concern.
In 2014, Irish Water accepted more advanced treatment was necessary to deal with the risk of cryptosporidium and cancer-causing trihalomethanes, of THMs.
In July 2015, Irish Water applied to Sligo County Council for planning permission for a new treatment plant.
This was refused because Lough Talt was a protrected habitat, a decision which led to the reported presence of a rare snail being highlighted ever since.
An Bord Pleanala upheld the council’s decision in April 2017 following an appeal by Irish Water.
Irish Water then consulted with the planning authorities and the EU in relation to the European Habitats Directive, which was the cause of the refusal of planning permission.
North West MEP Marian Harkin took part in those meetings at a European level and she says this whol situation should and could have been avoided.
She told North West Today that the European Habitats Directive does not mean that people’s health needs to be put at risk:
Irish Water says it is now working on a new planning application which, it hopes will be successful because of what it says is the overriding public interest of providing water of adequate quality for consumers.
It hopes to be able to submit this revised planning application in the next two months.
If its successful, Irish Water hopes to begin work on the new plant by early 2019, and have it in operation by early to mid-2020.