Seanad Éireann - Volume 146 - 08 February, 1996

Adjournment Matters. - County Roscommon Sewerage Scheme.

Mr. Finneran: This motion calls on the Minister for the Environment to sanction and provide funds for a public sewerage scheme in the villages of Ballintubber and Cloonfad in County Roscommon. These picturesque villages are situated in north-west Roscommon and have great potential. The people of the locality believe great opportunities exist with regard to industrial, commercial and tourism development. Both villages are being held back and hamstrung to a great extent due to the fact that they do not have a public sewerage scheme.

Both are progressive villages in so far as they both have development associations which have a long and fruitful record with different agencies: the county council, the enterprise board, Leader, the Department of Education with regard to an amenity grant, etc. They have developed the villages as far as possible at present and Ballintubber has come second on many occasions in the Tidy Towns competition in County Roscommon. That does not happen without massive community involvement and the House will appreciate that. They have a great tradition of organising events, such as the Ballintubber Fair, and many other attractions which bring people into the town. Along with that, of course, is Suck Valley Cooperative which has major tourism opportunities in the valley of the River Suck. I have a letter from that co-operative dating back a year or more which indicates the importance of getting a sewage treatment scheme for the village of Ballintubber to avoid pollution of the [442] River Suck as the result of overflows from the concentration of septic tanks in the Ballintubber area.

To give the Minister an idea of the size of Ballintubber, we are talking about almost 200 houses and the proposed scheme will cost in the region of £450,000. Roscommon County Council has undertaken all the costings and plans, has submitted them to the Department of the Environment and endorses the proposal.

The Cathaoirleach is also well aware of the situation. We have received strong representations over a long period with regard to the request for a sewerage scheme in that area. Their case is a good one. By sanctioning funds for this scheme, the Minister can be assured it will be money well spent. This is a vibrant community, with a development association, and there are real opportunities for tourism. Back up is provided by the now well developed Shannon Valley Co-op, which is involved in major angling events right along the Suck Valley and of which we are proud.

That is the case I make for the village of Ballintubber. As regards Cloonfad, which is a little further west and quite close to the County Mayo border, it also has a vibrant community. In fact, the record will show they have built a fine community and sports centre there, with social services day-care facilities, which caters for both young and old. All this has been done on a voluntary basis. We were fortunate to get grants under two headings: the sport and recreation section of the Department of Education and the Departments of Social Welfare and Health, which provided grant aid for equipment and the running of the day centre. The Cloonfad community, which is larger than than in Ballintubber, is also well organised. Between 250 and 300 houses in this area would benefit from this scheme. I believe there is a great case to be made here for this scheme, which will cost less than £500,000. It would be money well spent. Included in the scheme for Cloonfad is a proposal to take away some surface [443] water too and all this can add greatly to that village, which is ideally located. It is located right on the route of people who would travel across north-west Roscommon into the fishing areas of County Mayo, but it provides good course-fishing too. There are great opportunities here but, as I say, both villages are being hamstrung due to the lack of a public sewerage scheme.

I do not need to mention the letters, representations and lists of residents which have been sent to me and to other Oireachtas Members and councillors throughout the county pleading for a public sewerage scheme in these two villages. I know that public representatives at both Oireachtas and county council levels support fully both villages. I have no doubt they have made good cases, but as we begin another new tourism season the people are becoming edgy and are beginning to apply political pressure to establish whether the Department of the Environment and the Minister will come to their aid and indicate whether it will provide a public sewerage scheme for both villages.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): I thank Senator Finneran for the opportunity of dealing with this issue. The Minister is well aware of the difficulties arising from the unsatisfactory performance of existing septic tanks systems at Ballintubber and Cloonfad and of the concern in both villages that sewage collection and treatment should be improved at the earliest opportunity.

Senator Finneran will know that at present a number of major projects are being advanced for County Roscommon. Stage 1 of the Lough Derg, and Stage 1 of the Lough Ree Catchment Protection Schemes aim to provide sewage collection and treatment at Monksland, Castlerea, Boyle, Ballaghadereen, Tarmonbarry and Roscommon town at a cost of around £10 million. Both schemes have been submitted to the European Commission for co-financing under the Cohesion Fund. In addition, [444] a major water supply scheme at Boyle-Ardcarne was recently approved at a cost of £2.8 million; work has now started and the project will be substantially completed this year. Smaller projects at a number of other locations were also paid grants of £150,000 within the last year.

The Minister is, of course, keenly interested in the provision of sewerage services for rural villages but, unfortunately, demand exceeds available resources for projects of this kind. We need, therefore, to look at new technologies which are both environmentally safe and cost-effective so as to allow us to maximise resources for these smaller schemes.

Both Cloonfad and Ballintubber are small villages with a combined population of about 300 people. Surface water is collected and discharged to local streams. Septic tanks deal with sewage disposal for individual houses. The cost of providing new conventional sewage treatment and collection, as has been proposed for these two villages, would run to about £1 million. This would represent a cost of over £12,000 per house served. At a time when major sources of pollution must be addressed, both within County Roscommon and at towns and cities around the country, one must question whether cheaper but equally effective alternatives may not be available.

Having regard to the high cost of the schemes proposed for Cloonfad and Ballintubber and to the existing high level of commitments under the water and sanitary services programme, it is not possible to say when it may be possible to advance these schemes. It is appropriate, however, that Roscommon County Council should re-examine these proposals with a view to making them more cost-effective while at the same time ensuring that the system adopted is capable of treating the waste load to a satisfactory standard. The Department will be in touch with the county council for this purpose.

The Seanad adjourned at 4.10 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 14 February 1996.