Flood fears as problem discovered on Lough Neagh gate
CONCERNS have been raised after it emerged that a huge gate that helps control flood levels on Lough Neagh is faulty and cannot be used.
The sluice gate is one of five that regulate the flow of water from Lough Neagh into the River Bann.
They can be lowered or raised depending on the lough's water levels.
Stormont officials have not said when the gate will be fixed.
News that flood defences will not be working at full capacity heading into the winter will cause alarm for those in areas vulnerable to rising water levels.
The Rivers Agency, now known as DfI (Department for Infrastructure) Rivers, came in for criticism last year after homes, businesses and farmland around Lough Neagh were flooded.
At the time officials said the water levels were at their highest since they started keeping electronic records 30 years ago, while Lough Neagh residents said they were the highest in living memory.
Concern over the sluice gates also comes on the heels of wet summer and start to the autumn, with farmers around the lough already complaining that land is waterlogged.
DfI Rivers last night confirmed that a second sluice gate at the site has also been closed for “routine maintenance”.
Mid Ulster MLA Linda Dillon, who helped people caught up in last year's flooding, said “these people have suffered enough”.
“Some are still fighting their cases in relation to compensation,” he said.
“They don't want to be facing another possible winter of excessive rain and damage to their livelihoods and properties.”
Ms Dillon said last year's flooding had a “massive impact on people's lives”.
“They need to ensure that kind of devastation never happens (again) because of an issue with the gates.
“Nobody has control of the weather but we do have control of the gates.
“They need to ensure the infrastructure is in place, operational and maintained to a good standard.”
A spokeswoman for the DfI said a defect was identified on a gate during a recent inspection.
She said that until it is repaired it will not be used to regulate water levels.
“There has been no significant impact on levels and DfI will continue to monitor this and take any necessary action if required."
She added that the second gate is “currently operational” but is closed for “routine maintenance” and can be used if required.