THE Corrymeela community, the oldest peace and reconciliation centre in the UK and Ireland, based in Ballycastle, are facing a bill of almost £300,000 to be connected to the main sewage system after being told their sewage treatment tank is no longer fit for purpose.
A spokesperson for Corrymeela explained: “In the 1970’s we built our own small sewage treatment tank and have maintained that at our own expense ever since. Recently we discovered that this was no longer fit for purpose.
“And due to both the geology of our location and stringent environmental guidelines it is not possible to replace it. The only option is for us finally to be connected to the public sewage system.”
Although this is possible, it will come at a huge cost, a cost which puts strains on Corrymeela’s finances and all the economic benefits the centre brings to the local area.
The Corrymeela community works with over 10,000 people a year and supported by over 80,000 volunteer hours.
It is estimated that the bill for the essential work will come in at around £400,000, of which NI Water's standard contribution is £108k, leaving the charity to find the balance of almost £300,000, a figure that no charity is in any situation to pay.
Although the spokesperson was keen to stress that NI Water have been outstanding in their support of the centre saying: "They have been kind and good and have met with us to discuss things and offered suggestions about how we could go elsewhere - they have been very supportive regarding the situation we're in."
The spokesperson continued: “The Corrymeela centre brings a large number of economic benefits to the Causeway Coast and Glens area. We are one of the biggest employers in Ballycastle with 32 staff and an average 25 volunteers based at our site. We source 75 percent of our supplies from businesses within the council area and we spend up to £200k in the council area every year on supplies alone.
“We also bring thousands of visitors into the Council area every year. Many who come for events at Corrymeela stay on in the area as tourists and visit the Giant's Causeway, Bushmills Distillery among others'. This is particularly true of our international visitors and many of our programmes include groups going to the local pubs for in Ballycastle for a traditional music session or for visits to local attractions and to Rathlin Island.”
For the rest of this article please see this week's Ballycastle Chronicle