APPROVAL has been given for the first major upgrade to Cork city's water supply in more than 60 years.
Planning permission has been granted for the upgrade, replacement and extension of the Lee Road Water Treatment facility which dates back to the 19th century.
The plant provides clean drinking water for 100,000 people in the city, almost 70% of the total supply. The remainder comes from the Inniscarra Water Treatment Works.
The treatment of water began at the Lee Road in 1879. Since then, major upgrades have taken place in the 1920s and 1950s.
Water taken from the River Lee and treated at the plant is pumped to reservoirs in Shanakiel, the Harbour View Road and to the Water Tower in Churchfield and serve all of the city area north of the River Lee, the city centre and the south-central part of Cork. Areas of Mahon and Bishopstown in the south-east and south-west receive their water from the Inniscarra.
The Lee Road plant was badly damaged by the floods that struck the city in November 2009 leaving much of the northside without water for more than a week.
Irish Water was this week granted planning permission by Cork City Council for the upgrade.
The proposed works provide for a 40,000 cubic metres per day capacity water treatment facility. This involves the upgrading of existing sedimentation tanks, construction of new raw water tanks and pumps, filters, ultraviolet treatment and sludge treatment facilities.
New flood protections will also be built.
The upgrade will also make the plant more energy efficient as the Lee Road Water Treatment plant is one of the biggest energy consumers in Cork. The upgrade works will reduce the energy consumption and running costs of the water pumps by more than 10%.
It will also facilitate the removal of the Cork City Water Supply from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) remedial action list.The list is a record of the public water supplies known to be at risk and where the EPA is requiring Irish Water to take corrective action. The Lee Road is the largest water supply on the EPA's target list.
Once construction begins, it is expected the Lee Road upgrade project will take 18 months to complete.