Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Bit of a whiff in the Derry air

Workers at MPE have access to only one toilet

One toilet, and over 100 employees.

That's the unpleasant reality at Maydown Precision Engineering near Londonderry.

Problems at the local pumping station cause a backlog of sewage in the pipes - and an unpleasant stench - every time there is heavy rain.

Willie McLaughlin is one of two MPE employees charged with the unenviable six-hour task of removing manhole covers in the factory toilets and hosing down the sewer.

"When we open the cover the water level is nearly up to the top.

"You should be able to see the drain clear but it's blocked, and below that is raw sewage.

"The smell that comes out when we start to move it, it's just unbearable."

'Terrible stench'

The stench is equally unbearable for everyone in the factory, according to union representative Jim Melaugh.

"Everybody just keeps on working, but it's a terrible smell, and you can smell it all round the factory.

"It's just not right that people should have to put up with this.

"We're on a 30-hour week now, and we're trying to get more work in here, but you can't get it in if these things keep happening."

Maintenance manager Simon Strawbridge is also worried about the effect it could have on the business.

"We are currently trying to work with more European markets, and we're trying to get people from the Continent in to look at our facility in order to try and bring more work here.

"If we have the sewer system backed up we can't bring people on site because of the smell," he said.

Mr Strawbridge said Northern Ireland Water told him the pumping station at Maydown is inadequate for the factory's needs, and is unable to cope with the run-off from road drains.

The DUP assembly member William Hay has said he will organise a meeting between MPE, the Roads Service and NI Water.

In a statement, Northern Ireland Water said they were investigating a report of a sewage smell in the Maydown area.

"NI Water is liaising closely with other utility providers to investigate and, if necessary, solve this matter."

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