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Muir alarmed by lack of action over reservoir flooding risk

Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has said he is alarmed, after it emerged significant safety issues exist at nine reservoirs in Northern Ireland, which are not expected to be dealt with until January 2022 at the earliest.

There are 179 reservoirs in Northern Ireland with an estimated 83,000 people living and working in nearby areas potentially at risk of flooding. At today’s Assembly Infrastructure Committee, Mr Muir heard how urgent minimum interventions are required at at least nine of them, however not all reservoir owners have responded positively to the Department for Infrastructure (DFI)’s requests for remediation work.

DFI currently does not have the legal powers necessary to tackle the issue, with DFI staff telling the Committee the issue may not be fully resolved until the Department can provide grants to owners at the beginning of 2022.

“It is deeply concerning there are potentially thousands of people living near reservoirs needing urgent interventions, who haven’t even been informed of the risk they are living with every day. I have requested the Department provide the list of reservoirs in question as soon as possible,” said Mr Muir.

“This situation is literally an accident waiting to happen, and the idea it cannot be properly addressed for over a year from now is scandalous.

“We have unfortunately come to expect government moving slowly, but even by these standards the time taken to transfer legal responsibility for the Reservoirs Act from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to DFI is unbelievable. This should be a simple legal procedure, but one that potentially impacts the lives of thousands of people.

“Even in spite of 2020’s unprecedented circumstances, it is hard to understand why this hasn’t been completed nearly a year after devolved government was restored. I urge the DAERA and DFI Ministers to come to the Assembly with revised timetables so the issues identified at Committee can be resolved much sooner than we heard today.”