Dáil Éireann - Volume 453 - 18 May, 1995

Adjournment Debate. - Ballyjamesduff (Cavan) Sewerage Scheme.

Mr. B. Smith: Thank you for allowing me raise this issue and I am glad that the Minister of State, Deputy McManus, who is familiar with County Cavan is here to respond.

The environment action programme published in 1990 stated that the Department of the Environment had asked Cavan County Council to submit plans as a matter of urgency to upgrade the sewerage treatment works at Ballyjamesduff. Ballyjamesduff is situated on the Mountnugent river, a very important tributary of Lough Sheelin.

The provision of a modern and efficient sewerage system for Ballyjamesduff is essential. Since the publication of the environment action programme in 1990, the various stages of planning for this project have been completed and I understand that the contract documents are with the Department for approval. In his reply to a parliamentary question recently, the [501] Minister indicated that the Ballyjamesduff sewerage scheme was included in the Lough Ree catchment protection scheme, which has been submitted to the European Commission for assistance under the Cohesion Fund.

The reason I raise this matter on the adjournment is to indicate the urgency attached to having a new scheme put in place at the earliest possible date. The present treatment works are totally inadequate for the town and unfortunately the lack of a proper treatment plant is a contributory factor to damaging the water quality in Lough Sheelin. It is reckoned that the present inadequate scheme contributes between 11 and 40 per cent of the total phosphorous load in the lake. Lough Sheelin was one of Europe's premier brown trout fishing lakes and is one of our major natural resources for angling. It has had unfortunately its ups and downs and I take this opportunity to compliment the many individuals, organisations and public agencies who have contributed and are still contributing very significantly to its restoration on the success they have had in creating an awareness among the people of the need to conserve major waterways such as Lough Sheelin.

The provision of a new sewage treatment scheme in Ballyjamesduff is totally in keeping with the philosophy of preserving and nurturing our environment to the highest possible standard. I am sure the Minister will have to determine the priorities for the commencement of schemes and expenditure when the Cohesion Fund applications are approved by the European Commission. I appeal to the Minister on behalf of the people of Ballyjamesduff, of County Cavan and the adjoining counties and everyone at home and abroad who wants to see Lough Sheelin in a permanent state of good health. This would be a major infrastructural asset to Ballyjamesduff, to that area of south Cavan and to the tourism and angling industries. I hope the Minister will indicate that this scheme is a priority one and [502] that work will commence before the end of 1995.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): I thank Deputy Smith for raising this matter.

I am aware of the need to extend and improve the existing sewerage system in Ballyjamesduff which discharges ultimately to Lough Sheelin and to the wider Lough Ree catchment. The sensitivity of Lough Sheelin in environmental pollution terms is well recognised. The Environmental Protection Agency examined the position and recently conveyed to the Minister their advice that the Ballyjamesduff scheme should be urgently implemented. We accept that advice.

In recognition of this, Lough Ree has recently been designated a sensitive area by national regulations made in December 1994 which implement the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment directive.

As the Deputy knows, considerable progress has been made in recent years with the provision of water and sewerage infrastructure in County Cavan. This scheme has been included in an application to the EU Commission for finance under the Cohesion Fund in respect of the Lough Ree catchment protection scheme. A decision on this application should be available shortly.

The present scheme caters for a population of about 1,500 persons and suffers from overloading of the treatment works and consequent pollution of the Pound Stream. It is proposed to extend and improve the system to cater for an estimated population of 2,200 persons. A new treatment works incorporating phosphate removal, extended aeration, tertiary treatment in upward flow clarifiers and sludge treatment is proposed. Extensive refurbishment and extension of both the surface and foul sewerage systems will also be involved.

A number of issues, however, remain to be resolved before full approval can be granted to the contract documents which are under examination in my [503] Department. We are awaiting the submission of a certificate of completion of planning from the county council. This will not be possible until the relevant land acquisitions are finalised.

I am confident that these matters can be resolved so that we may be in a position to advance the project later this year.