Seanad Éireann - Volume 182 - 07 December, 2005
Water and Sewerage Schemes.
Mr. U. Burke Mr. U. Burke
Mr. U. Burke: I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Fahey, for coming to the House to take this Adjournment matter. It is very appropriate that the Minister of State should take this motion because he once represented the constituency in question and probably monitors developments in it every day.
The Minister of State is aware that approximately 70,000 gallons of raw sewage is pumped into Kinvara Bay each day. This ongoing problem has worsened in the past ten years. Pollution is rampant in the bay. The Minister of State can see the extent of the pollution in this photograph I am holding. The signs and smell of pollution are evident. This pollution, which has been documented, is destroying Kinvara Bay’s potential as a major tourism area. The former health board took 18 water samples from the bay and found that 50% of them were seriously polluted with organisms such as e-coli.
The bay was previously used for swimming, which has been cancelled for the last decade. Boating, other leisure pursuits in the bay and, indeed, the tourist trade, are being killed off because of pollution in the bay. Every study has indicated the need for urgent action to tackle this problem. The dumping of raw sewage in the bay has breached EU directives and Government regulations. The EU Commission has indicated that the Government and relevant local authority failed to rectify a situation they were both warned about.
The dumping of raw sewage in Kinvara Bay is a public health hazard. The unique nature of the bay must be taken into account because the tides and currents are unable to regularly flush out the contents of the bay, as is the case with other more open bays. The bay is approximately one mile long and 50 ft wide, with an average depth of approximately eight to ten feet. Problems are caused by incoming freshwater because the circulation of currents adds to the existing physical difficulties in the bay.
The future provision of a sewerage system at Kinvara Bay was announced in 2003 and included in Galway County Council’s water services investment programme for 2005 to 2006. Financing was apparently in place so most people, somewhat naively, believed that this was a firm commitment to deliver the long-promised facility. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government returned the documents from the preliminary report on the scheme in June 2005, a delay of over two years. This report had been sent to the Department in February 2003. As a result, the sewerage plant project has been delayed by two years. According to Galway County Council, the plant cannot be completed before the summer of 2009. This opinion is based on its assessment that the amended report returned to the Department in October will be approved by the Minister in March 2006. Tendering, construction and the appointment of the design team will follow the approval of this report. It will be at least two and a half years before the construction phase of the project commences.
The people of Kinvara and the surrounding areas cannot wait. Serious efforts will be made to induce the EU Commission to revisit the issue and point the finger at the Government for its inactivity. Galway County Council provided a grant for the development of a town plan for Kinvara for the last two years. The plan was unique in that it involved the community. Under the new plan, no new developments can take in place in Kinvara without the provision of a sewerage scheme. Given the health risks posed by the pollution, the economic life of Kinvara and the fact that no new development can take place without the provision of a sewerage scheme, what more is required before some Minister takes action?
Mr. Fahey Mr. Fahey
Mr. Fahey: I thank Senator Ulick Burke for tabling the motion in respect of Kinvara sewerage scheme. I agree with everything he said. I was involved in the establishment of the Kinvara water scheme a number of years ago. At the time, we thought it would be possible to establish a sewerage scheme.
The provision of modern environmental infrastructure to remove threats to the environment has been a major focus of Government spending over the past number of years. As part of the considerable programme of investment being put in place nationally to improve our water services infrastructure, the necessary funding has been set aside for the provision of a modern and up-to-date sewerage scheme in Kinvara. This scheme will cost approximately €2.6 million and is approved in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s Water Services Investment Programme 2004-06, to start construction next year.
Kinvara is one of over 60 water and sewerage schemes, worth more than €444 million, that are included in the water services investment programme for Galway. Towns and villages like Athenry, Ballinasloe, Barna, Carraroe, Claregalway, Clarinbridge, Clifden, Corofin, Glenamaddy, Headford, Miltown, Oughterard and Tuam can all look forward to new sewerage facilities. In addition, many other areas such as Carna- Kilkieran, Gort, Clifden, Costelloe, Loughrea and Tuam will also benefit from new or improved water supplies. No one can say therefore that Galway is not benefiting substantially from the Government’s investment in water services projects.
The Kinvara sewerage scheme has been assigned construction status in the Department’s water services investment programme. Departmental funding is available for immediate draw down by Galway County Council as soon as it is required. The council’s preliminary report for the scheme, which was received in the Department in October, is being examined. This is a very detailed report, setting out the objectives, proposing areas to be served and outputs expected from the scheme. It cannot be dealt with overnight and must be carefully considered by the Department to ensure that the scheme proposed will meet the environmental objectives set for it as well as representing the most appropriate and cost-effective solution from a public expenditure point of view. Every effort is being made to finalise the Department’s examination of the preliminary report and a response will go to the council as soon as possible. Once the preliminary report is approved the way will be clear for the council to draw up contract documents, which will be used to invite tenders for the construction of the scheme.
I am conscious of the strong case the Senator has made, as have all the public representatives in east Galway, to get this scheme started quickly and I note the comments made. The Department will do everything it can to move the scheme ahead as quickly as possible. From a personal point of view, I could not agree more with Senator Burke’s comments. It is a scandal that raw sewage is going into Kinvara Bay which is an enclosed bay with a significant oyster bed. It is also used for fishing and water sports and so on. We all need to see that scheme move on as quickly as possible.
Seanad Éireann 182 Water and Sewerage Schemes.