Dáil Éireann - Volume 500 - 10 February, 1999
Adjournment Debate. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
Mr. Ring: I thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for selecting this matter for the Adjournment. This is an important issue for Westport and the surrounding areas. Westport is the fastest growing town in the west. The last two censuses revealed that Galway city and Westport were the only two areas where there had been an increase in population. Westport is a major tourist attraction centre and work will be completed in the next few weeks on a further three swimming pools in the town. Three hotels there have been upgraded to international standard. Thousands of visitors come to stay in Westport every summer, but it is disappointing to see raw sewage flowing into Clew Bay.
When my party was in Government there was a water problem and a sewerage problem in the town. I was able to put pressure on the then Minister for the Environment and the Taoiseach to resolve the water problem by securing the allocation of £2.25 million for the necessary work. Before my party left office the proposed sewerage scheme was almost up and running but I was disappointed that Westport was not included in the list of water schemes and sewerage schemes recently announced.
I was annoyed with the response I got to a question I tabled to the Minister last week. He said he could not identify where he could get the funding for this scheme. Why is funding for this scheme not allocated from the Cohesion Funds? Will all those funds be allocated to schemes in Dublin and other areas along the east coast, as happened in the past few years?
Westport has a mix of industry and tourism. It faces the problem faced by every other town in that it does not have serviced land on which to build houses. Without a sewerage scheme, the development of Westport will come to a standstill. I appeal to the Minister, the Department and the Government to put the contract for this scheme out to tender. That will ensure that, while no money will be spent on that scheme this year, at least a contractor will be appointed and the necessary money will be found next year. I ask the Minister of State to put the contract for this work out to tender and that will save a year in terms of the completion of work on this scheme.
There is outrage about the lack of a sewerage scheme in Westport. The chamber of commerce, the urban district council, other interested groups and members of the public are calling for this scheme. There are forthcoming local and European elections. The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, who has just left the Chamber, will be seeking votes in Westport in the European elections, but he will be ambushed like every Fianna Fáil Oireachtas Member and councillor. This scheme was almost up and running, but I do not  know why it was taken out of the programme. I want the Minister of State to tell me the reason. I hope he will announce that the contract for this scheme will be put out to tender. Perhaps the Minister will find the money to do so in the coming weeks. With the local elections, European elections, Údarás elections and a general election perhaps taking place on 11 June, it is likely that many announcements will be made in coming weeks.
Mr. D. Wallace Mr. D. Wallace
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. D. Wallace): My colleague the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, is unable to be in the House to respond and has asked me to do so on his behalf. I intend to respond by dealing comprehensively with the question of funding for the Westport sewerage scheme. I will also comment briefly on the extent of the Government's commitment to the water services area generally, a commitment that has again been firmly underlined by the unprecedented level of investment set out in the 1999 water and sewerage services investment programme which has just been published.
The 1999 programme is by far the largest ever. At £275 million, investment in water and sewerage services this year will be 50 per cent greater than last year, and no less than double the size of the 1996 spend. Funding of this order will impact very positively and substantially on our environmental infrastructure and the ability of that infrastructure to meet current and projected development needs from residential, industrial and other forms of economic activity.
I am pleased the Deputy's county is a significant beneficiary under the 1999 programme, which includes Mayo schemes worth almost £84 million. Listed to start construction are the Ballina regional water supply, Crossmolina sewerage and an advance section of the Westport sewerage scheme. The Achill, phase IV water, Claremorris sewerage, Castlebar environs – Newport Road – sewerage and Ballyhaunis sewerage are included to continue construction. Provision has also been made for a significant number of schemes to advance through planning. These include the Lough Mask regional water supply – Knock to Ballyhaunis – scheme, Ballyhaunis town water, Erris regional water supply – extension to Mullet Peninsula – the Knock, Killala and Achill Sound sewerage schemes, the Ballina main drainage scheme and the main elements of the Castlebar environs and Westport sewerage schemes.
Funding has also been approved under the serviced land initiative for schemes worth more than £3.2 million at Ballina, Ballinrobe, Newport and Mulranny, designed to bring additional serviced residential sites on stream as rapidly as possible to ease pressures on the housing market. It is clear that Mayo is getting a fair share of available funding and that the schemes that have been  approved will greatly contribute to removing development constraints and to creating the infrastructure needed to support and expand tourism and other important economic activities in the county.
The Westport sewerage scheme is a substantial project with an estimated cost of more than £20 million. An advance section relating to sewer rehabilitation works has been included in this year's water and sewerage services investment programme to start construction, the rest of the scheme is included in the 1999 programme to be advanced through planning. I understand that Mayo County Council will shortly be in a position to submit tender recommendations for the advance section which should allow it to get under way quickly. The planning and design stages of the main part of the scheme have been approved for funding under the EU Cohesion Fund, but I am afraid that source of funding for the construction works has not yet been identified. While I am anxious to see this section advance as quickly as possible, the available funding and the already high level of commitments under the investment programme must be considered. The Deputy can be assured that I have listened carefully, and with interest, to what he has said and that it will be kept in mind when the question of releasing further new schemes is being considered.
Dáil Éireann 500 Adjournment Debate. Water and Sewerage Schemes.