BELVELLY, ‘mouth of the roadway’, is on the northern end of the Great Island of Cork Harbour, about four miles north of Cobh.
Perhaps best known for its humpback bridge — the only road connection to Cobh and the Great Island — the area is dominated by the impressive restoration work that has been going on for some time by the owners of historic Belvelly Castle.
The castle’s owners, Garry and Anne Wilson, have spent a considerable amount of money on the work, with a striking golden tree, an Orla de Brí piece, Quiet Listening, placed atop the 80-foot high 13th century structure.
Belvelly provides striking and different marine images when driving past at the various tidal stages, and the bridge is always a reminder of how Cobh was cut off from road access when it was flooded.
From there, it is a short road distance to the next harbourside village of Carrigaloe, the ferry terminal for the cross-river connection with Glenbrook.
There is another striking aspect of this interesting part of the harbour, but not so welcome because it challenges the cleaning-up of Cork Harbour about which so much has been heard.
The villagers of Belvelly and Carrigaloe can see this ongoing work across the river where it has caused a lot of traffic and amenity disruption for many months in Glenbrook, Passage West, and Monkstown.
“While the Lower Harbour Main Drainage Scheme is very welcome, in the villages of Carrigaloe and Belvelly, the publicity about a clean harbour is met with some derision,” I was told by Gerry Moore, of their local community group.
Derision. I wondered about that when contrasting it with all the well-publicised statements explaining the intensive disruption on the other side of the harbour.
He explained: “Between the two villages, about 70 houses — in most cases constructed between 1850 and 1950 — either discharge directly into the Harbour or, in one case of a Council-constructed scheme, the run-off of a communal septic tank is discharged into the river.
“The residents of the villages had hoped that the new scheme would extend to them, but it terminates at the river ferry. Apart from the extension of the scheme, there may be other solutions to these problems. However, Irish Water maintains that any such solutions would be at the residents’ expense. It seems unfair that one group of people, relying on a historical disposal system which polluted the river, make no contribution to its solution, while another group in precisely the same situation are expected to meet all costs themselves.
“Residents want to deal with the problem — they have to look on to a polluted river. But many are faced with financial costs beyond their means and in some cases technical problems which cannot be overcome on an individual basis.”
I queried this with Irish Water. Could it be that, despite all the promises and publicity saying that Cork Harbour will be cleaned up of pollution entering its waters, this is not going to be the case and there will be one area that will not be treated? It appears that this is the case.
Marie Sheehan, of Irish Water Public Relations, responded: “Providing wastewater services for the Belvelly area presents a particular challenge for Irish Water, as there are currently no Irish Water sewers in the Belvelly area. Providing wastewater services in this area would require a significant extension to the proposed Cork Lower Harbour sewer network of up to 4km, including the construction of a wastewater pumping station in the area. This option would involve technical challenges, a high relative cost for initial capital investment, high operational costs, and maintenance issues due to the low housing density in the area.
“As a regulated utility, Irish Water’s investment has been prioritised in line with the Irish Water Business Plan, and has been approved by our regulator the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU).
“Irish Water will continue to work with the local authority and other stakeholders and investigate any viable options for the provision of wastewater services in Belvelly.”
So, despite all we have been told about a cleaned-up harbour, it seems that it is not totally going to happen, certainly not as far as what Belvelly and Carrigaloe will be continuing to put into the river. Understandably, residents there say they don’t want this to happen.