Dáil Éireann - Volume 433 - 01 July, 1993
Adjournment Debate. - Wexford Quay Flood Damage.
Mr. Byrne Mr. Byrne
Mr. Byrne: I would like to share my time with my constituency colleague, Deputy Doyle.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Byrne Mr. Byrne
Mr. Byrne: During the recent heavy rains the canal operated by the Office of Public Works at Kilmore, County Wexford, flooded. The surrounding land is below sea level. Although four pumps were available only one was operated on the night in question. Resulting from this gross negligence large tracts of farmland in the Kilmore-Bridgetown area were flooded. Following the rain storms, one farmer found his 11 acre field of potatoes  under three feet of water, and this happened in free-draining soil.
The early potato crop, which is the mainstay of local agriculture, was destroyed. Grassland and other horticultural interests suffered badly. Farmland in the district is fertile and well farmed. Families working the land, like farmers everywhere, have suffered the difficulties of recent times. They certainly did not need the gross negligence of the Office of Public Works to add to their burdens. In time the grasslands in the area will recover, but the potato and vegetable crops are lost forever. As I speak, farming families are wondering what they will say to their bank managers and other creditors. Heavy liabilities have already been incurred, unbearable in certain instances. In more than one case the penny-pinching refusal of the Office of Public Works to turn on the three remaining pumps on that fateful night will be responsible for these families leaving the land.
The State has a moral obligation to compensate for this negligence. I plead with the Minister to follow the right course in this matter. The State's bureaucracy is frustrating the rights of citizens and is costing them dearly in terms of time and money. The Minister should be aware—and legal precedents have shown this—that such a course of action leads only to huge legal bills, the costs of which must be borne by the State. In particular, I refer to the Rowe case. The case for compensation for farmers in the Kilmore/Bridgetown area is clear and straightforward. It is based on morality and the law. In case the former does not impress the Minister, I will state the latter.
The Rowe case involved similar damage from the same system. A 12 acre field of carrots was destroyed. The case, which commenced in 1983, dragged on until 1991, when it was settled on its second day in court. Substantial damages, in addition to enormous costs, were paid. I understand the total bill was approximately £150,000. We must pay  the farmers what they are owed and let the lawyers sing for their supper.
Mrs. Doyle Mrs. Doyle
Mrs. Doyle: I support my colleague, Deputy Byrne, in the case he has made for the farmers and people living in the Kilmore/Kilmore Quay area of County Wexford. The area concerned is part of the Ballyteigue/Kilmore arterial drainage scheme that was developed between 1959 and 1961. At the time the 2,300 acres were drained by the deepening of channels and the installation of electrical automated pumps. These pumps are triggered when the water level reaches a certain point. Quite frankly, they are now out of date and are incapable of taking flood water such as we had over the last couple of months.
In supporting the case for damage and compensation for the potato farmers and, indeed, the grassland and dry stock farmers in this area, we must also remember the many families on the periphery of this area who suffered severe flooding for weeks. They include the Sinnotts, the Rossiters, the Bates and the Winters, all residing from Sarshill to the Grange area of Kilmore, and indeed many more. In addition to calling on the Office of Public Works to stand by the local people, who through its negligence have now lost a serious portion of their annual income for this year, we should also compliment Wexford County Council for the work now in train in relation to cleaning the drains in the area adjacent to the arterial drainage scheme. The run-off from county council roads and drains exacerbated the problem of the natural flooding of this 2,300 acres, which is below sea level. We now need the combination of proper action between the Office of Public Works and Wexford County Council. This 2,300 acres of the Ballyteigue/Kilmore scheme is the direct responsibility of the Office of Public Works. I support my colleague, Deputy Byrne, in calling on the Office of Public Works to immediately provide, through the Government, the necessary compensation for those farmers and households whose income and living areas have been destroyed.
 I would like confirmation also that the sea defences in this area are being properly maintained. I would like the Minister to place on the record that the sea defences are presently maintained in such a state that there is absolutely no risk to those living or working on the farmland behind these sea defences, which, as I said, is below sea level. This would allay the fears of people in that area.
Is the maintenance of the scheme sufficient in the area? Is the subhead Vote from the Office of Public Works sufficient? It is the same as it has been for many years; it has not been increased or inflation indexed. The scheme is now out of date. It is over 30 years old and has had no major capital investment over that time. It now requires a complete overhaul with the provision of modern, larger pumps capable of coping with a larger volume of water.
Mr. T. Kitt Mr. T. Kitt
Mr. T. Kitt: Following the passage of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, the Ballyteigue/Kilmore catchment in County Wexford was included at No. 2 on the priority list of minor rivers then established and on which, in conjunction with a corresponding list of major rivers, the national arterial drainage programme has since been based. A scheme for the catchment designed to confer benefit on some 2,300 acres of agricultural land was carried out by the Commissioners of Public Works on the river between 1959 and 1961.
Though not unique, the Ballyteigue/ Kilmore scheme is unusual in that two distinct drainage systems are employed. Upland regions are drained by gravity through an embankment channel system. The low lying area has frontal sea defences and all of the waters from these lands are pumped out to sea. The main pumphouse is situated at Cull at the outfall of a very wide channel which, presumably, is the canal to which the Deputies refer. This pumphouse contains four pumps which are capable of dealing with flows from normal rainfalls.
While no scheme is capable of giving complete protection from flooding because of economic constraints the  scheme as designed generally provides adequate drainage for grazing and tillage. With exceptional rainfall, such as occurred in May and June of this year, some flooding is inevitable. However, the standard of maintenance carried out by the commissioners and the pumping arrangements are such as to minimise the extent and duration of any flooding which may occur.
The commissioners are aware of the need for care and attention in the management and operation of this scheme and are satisfied that these requirements are fully complied with. The specific details raised by Deputy Byrne and Deputy Doyle will be passed on to my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey. I will request him to examine the matter and report back directly to the Deputies.
Dáil Éireann 433 Adjournment Debate. Wexford Quay Flood Damage.