Dáil Éireann - Volume 547 - 31 January, 2002
Adjournment Debate. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: I am disappointed that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is not present, but I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, will provide him with a synopsis of the debate. This issue affects not only County Roscommon, but also the Minister of State's constituency of Galway East. For a number of years Roscommon County Council has had a proposal before the Department of the Environment and Local Government for the development of a new sewerage scheme for Creagh, south Roscommon, adjoining the town of Ballinasloe. However, it is not feasible to proceed with this development due to the fact that the sewerage scheme to which it would connect is located in Ballinasloe, County Galway. For Roscommon County Council to proceed with the scheme it must connect to Ballinasloe UDC's treatment plant. However, Ballinasloe UDC's plant does not have the capacity to meet the additional demand that would have to be catered for with the connection to south Roscommon.
I ask the Department to deal with both applications together – the application from Ballinasloe UDC and that from Roscommon County Council – in relation to the town of Ballinasloe and Creagh, County Roscommon. This is the only feasible way it can be done. The Creagh area is of fundamental economic importance to south Roscommon and it is vitally important that the scheme goes ahead, not just because of its  location in the hinterland of Ballinasloe, but also because it contains the only access point in County Roscommon to the proposed new motorway between Dublin and Galway. To ensure County Roscommon is on a level playing field with other counties along the new M6 it is important that approval is given for the scheme with the Ballinasloe sewerage scheme.
The problem is that the Ballinasloe sewerage scheme application only considers the capacity and demand required to be met in the County Galway element. It does not consider the proposal submitted from County Roscommon. Roscommon County Council is left with the alternative of proposing a further sewerage scheme in the town of Ballinasloe. At present there are two sewerage schemes serving the town of Ballinasloe, one run by Ballinasloe UDC and the other by the Western Health Board. Now the Department of the Environment and Local Government is in the position where it has to consider a third sewerage scheme in the town of Ballinasloe, yet, Athlone, in excess of twice the size of Ballinasloe, has had for many years only one sewerage scheme serving it.
In terms of value for money it makes sense that the two schemes would be connected and approval given for both in conjunction with each other in order that both can be developed together. The difficulty lies with Ballinasloe UDC and Galway County Council, the net beneficiaries of the system as it stands. Young people from south Roscommon cannot get planning permission in south Roscommon because there is no development land with sewerage schemes available. They must go to County Galway before they can get planning permission. This may suit Deputy Treacy but young people who were born, bred and reared in County Roscommon must go and live in County Galway if they want to live locally. Section 86 of the Local Government Act, 2001, states that two local authorities may make arrangements for joint discharge of their functions. If that does not happen, the Minister has the authority to force the local authorities to come forward with a joint proposal. I ask the Minister to use his powers under section 87 of the Local Government Act, 2001, to force both Ballinasloe UDC and Roscommon County Council to make a joint proposal to the Department of the Environment and Local Government for the development of a sewerage scheme in Creagh and in the town of Ballinasloe. There should be a redevelopment of the treatment plant on the banks of the River Suck. A co-ordinated approach would be of mutual benefit to the counties of Roscommon and Galway and would benefit the town of Ballinasloe.
Mr. Treacy Mr. Treacy
Mr. Treacy: I am very pleased to have the opportunity of replying to Deputy Naughten on a matter in which I have a great personal interest.  I regret that this beautiful area and these wonderful people are not in the county of Galway and the constituency of Galway East. Perhaps Deputy Naughten and I might agree a consensus on how we could achieve their absorption into the greater Ballinasloe area.
The provision of modern environmental infrastructure to support social and economic objectives has been a major focus of Government spending over the past four and a half years. The unprecedented increase in investment by the Department of the Environment and Local Government during that period on water and sewerage schemes has made a key contribution to the remarkable economic growth that has benefited every part of Ireland.
Total investment in water and sewerage facilities over the period of the National Development Plan 2000-2006, will amount to almost €4.4 billion, of which more than €3.8 billion is earmarked for major public schemes. This investment is aimed at supporting economic and social development, employment generation and the achievement of high environmental standards.
The additional water production capacity generated by the resulting expansion of the Department's water services investment programme during the first year of the NDP alone in 2000, equated with the average daily requirements of more than 300,000 people. This represented, in just one year, 36% of the corresponding figure for the entire 1994 to 1999 period. The increase in waste water treatment capacity in the same year represented the requirements of a population equivalent of 180,000 – almost half the entire increase between 1994 and 1999. When the figures for 2001 become available shortly, I am confident they will be just as impressive.
Funding is being provided under the water services investment programme for new schemes in every single county. The total allocated for County Roscommon under the first phase of the programme amounts to just over €58 million in respect of 13 schemes. About half of this, more than €28 million, relates to five large sewerage schemes – Ballaghadereen, Boyle, Monskland, Roscommon town and Castlerea. Major water schemes, such as the north east Roscommon water augmentation and treatment scheme, the Arigna regional water supply scheme, the Boyle-Ardcarne regional water supply scheme, and the Roscommon central regional water supply schemes are also included. Funding has also been provided under the serviced land initiative to bring additional serviced residential sites on stream as rapidly as possible to meet housing needs at a variety of locations around the county.
The Deputy will be aware that in drawing up the current water services investment programme covering the period 2000 to 2002, which was announced in July 2000, the Department took into account the list of water and sewerage  schemes identified as priorities by Roscommon County Council. All local authorities were asked to undertake fresh assessments of the need for capital works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments.
Creagh sewerage scheme was fifth on the list of sewerage scheme adopted as priorities at the time by Roscommon County Council. Three of the schemes ahead of it on the priority list were approved under the programme. However, given the lower rating afforded to the Creagh scheme by the council, the level of competing national demand, and the funding available, it was not possible to approve it at the time. In the meantime, a draft brief for the appointment of consultants to prepare a preliminary report for sewerage schemes at 16 villages in Roscommon, including Creagh, has been submitted to the Department by the council for consideration.
As I have indicated, the current water services programme is only the first phase of a strategy that will be progressively rolled forward on a phased basis up to the end of the national development plan in 2006. Further schemes will be added to the programme in each future phase. The Creagh scheme will be considered for approval in the context of the next phase of the  programme, in light of the council's identified priorities at the time. The Deputy can also be assured that the points he has made in the House this evening will be taken into account when the new schemes are being selected for approval.
I agree completely with Deputy Naughten. It is illogical that there are two local authorities which are joined together at one point and where there is a grave need for the upgrading of the environmental infrastructure. There is no reason we could not find common agreement and have one authority responsible to ensure that equality of opportunity would prevail for all the people. I will convey Deputy Naughten's request to the Minister to see whether we can find common ground. It shocks me to hear Deputy Naughten say that there is not sufficient capacity in the Ballinasloe sewerage scheme to include this small area. We installed one of the most sophisticated and modern systems in Ballinasloe just two years ago. It serves the town – our county town – and I cannot understand how there could be a problem with capacity. I will speak to the Minister. If we can achieve co-operation from Galway, Roscommon and Ballinasloe, we will be able to progress rapidly on this issue.
The Dáil adjourned at 5.25 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 February 2002.
Dáil Éireann 547 Adjournment Debate. Water and Sewerage Schemes.