Former sewage lagoons to be transformed into wildlife haven

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niwater_rgbA series of former sewage sludge lagoons outside Craigavon, known as Ballynacor, are being transformed into a haven for wildflowers and threatened pollinators.

The development of a wildflower meadow on a seven hectare restoration site owned by NI Water, adjacent to the fully operational Ballynacor Wastewater Treatment Works in Derrymacash, is being led by Ulster Wildlife in partnership with EcoSeeds, and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. It is the first project of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The five sludge lagoons have been fully remediated by NI Water, its operating contractor, Glen Water Ltd, and land reclamation specialists Vertase FLI, over a  two year period through a process of dewatering and  stabilisation; mixing the sludge with cement and fly ash to form an almost impermeable fill – a first for land reclamation of this nature in Northern Ireland.

Work recently got underway planting the in-filled lagoons, with over 300kg of native wildflower seeds harvested from local meadows in Oxford Island Nature Reserve and Fermanagh.

A large hydro seeder was used to spray the ground with a mixture of water, seeds and soil tackifer to soften and stabilise the seed bed.

01No corner of the site has been left untouched and next year, the site will see its first shoots of colourful wildflowers including yellow rattle, ragged robin, meadowsweet and ox eye daisy which will attract pollinating insects, wild birds and small mammals as they navigate their way through the landscape.

Conor McKinney, Living Landscapes Manager with Ulster Wildlife said: “We are thrilled to be leading on this exciting and unique project. Creating a wildflower meadow on former sewage sludge lagoons is as hard as it gets and has never been done before in Northern Ireland. By working closely with leading experts, conducting trials, and establishing the right conditions on site, we’re confident it will be a success. Given the huge wildlife benefits and cost savings from axing mowing regimes, we hope to see work starting on other similar sites in the not too distant future.”

The coordination of the wildflower landscaping project on behalf of NI Water was managed by Roisin McDade, scientist and SCAMP Officer.

Roisin commented: “This project has been a very worthwhile exercise, greatly improving the lagoons by transforming