Seanad Éireann - Volume 188 - 14 February, 2008

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

  Senator Paudie Coffey: I refer to the need for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to clarify the progress on the seven village sewerage scheme application submitted by Waterford County Council and the reasons the foreshore licences that are required have not yet been approved. There is a great deal of frustration and confusion surrounding this village sewerage scheme in County Waterford on which seven towns and villages are depending for their development and future expansion. The submission was made to the Department by Waterford County Council in 2003. Foreshore licences are required for some of the villages involved. The Department encouraged Waterford County Council to include all seven villages in the one application. While this might have been seen as more efficient at the outset, it has halted progress in some of the towns that did not require a foreshore licence and this is the nub of the issue.

[893]I do not know and I would like clarification as to which Department is responsible for issuing foreshore licences. The application was made almost three years ago for the licences to allow the sewerage schemes to proceed. Is intolerably long. We are always talking about protecting the environment and installing the necessary infrastructure to allow our towns and villages to grow. Here are seven villages in a county stymied by excessive bureaucracy, delays and foot-dragging within the Departments. I ask that this should not be repeated in any other local authority areas or towns around the country. It causes enormous frustration for the local authority, councillors and, most importantly, communities hampered by the lack of development.

For the record, the seven villages involved are Cappoquin, Stradbally, Ardmore, Ballyduff-Kilmeaden, Dunmore East, Tallow and Kilmacthomas. Tallow and Kilmacthomas have been approved to go to tender for their schemes to be installed, as has Ballyduff-Kilmeaden, I am informed. Unfortunately, they now await Cappoquin, Stradbally and Ardmore which await their foreshore licences. I hope we get clarification today as to the timeframe in which we can expect the licences to be issued to allow these schemes to progress. I hope the Minister of State will take my views on board as well as those of the local authority that to group schemes together in this manner is not necessarily a good idea because it has delayed unnecessarily some of the towns that were ready to proceed. I thank the Minister of State for attending and look forward to his response.

  Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: I thank Senator Coffey for raising the matter and giving me the opportunity to clarify, on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the position on this important scheme. The Waterford grouped towns and villages sewerage scheme has been approved for funding by the Minister under his Department’s water services investment programme 2007-09. The estimated cost of the scheme is more than €43 million. The current water services programme provides for overall investment of €182 million in new water and sewerage infrastructure in County Waterford over the next few years. A copy of the programme is available in the Oireachtas Library.

The towns and villages sewerage scheme entails the construction of new or upgraded waste water treatment and collection systems in Ardmore, Ballyduff-Kilmeaden, Cappoquin, Dunmore East, Kilmacthomas, Stradbally and Tallow. Waterford County Council is advancing the scheme on the basis of separate contracts for the collection systems and waste water treatment plants, with the latter being grouped under a single contract. The objective of grouping the treatment plants is to create economies of scale. This [894]secures greater interest from suitable contractors, better quality proposals and keenest prices.

When finished, this major scheme will cater for new residential and commercial development in each of the towns and villages, but especially Ardmore, Cappoquin and Dunmore East where development has been constrained because of inadequate waste water infrastructure. The scheme will also improve significantly environmental standards in local river systems and coastal waters which are an important amenity for the tourism sector. The agreed programme for Government is committed to ensuring waste water discharges into rivers, lakes and streams meet the highest international standards and this scheme is a clear reflection of that objective.

As the Senator is particularly interested in the position on the foreshore licences for the scheme, I will deal with this matter first. The Senator is probably aware that Waterford County Council has applied to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for a total of nine foreshore licences for works associated with the Ardmore, Ballyduff-Kilmeaden, Cappoquin and Dunmore East waste water treatment plants. I understand the licences have yet to be granted but that the council is actively pursuing matters with that Department. I have arranged for the Senator’s concerns in this regard to be brought to the attention of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and that Department has undertaken to write to him setting out the position.

In so far as the scheme is concerned, I am pleased to be able to say that Waterford County Council is making good progress. Work on upgrading the waste water collection system in Tallow is well under way. The council signed the contract to upgrade the Kilmacthomas collection system in January. It expects to invite tenders shortly for the Cappoquin collection system and envisages seeking tenders for the remaining four collection systems on a phased basis up to June 2008. Under this timetable, construction work on all collection systems should have begun by January 2009. In accordance with devolved procedures introduced by the Department of the Environment to speed up the delivery of water services projects, departmental approval of the tenders for the collection systems will not be required provided Waterford County Council stays within budget.

The council also has completed the planning of the waste water treatment plants for each of the locations and has begun the pre-qualification process to select prospective tenderers. The council is finalising the contract documents for the new plants and will submit them to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for approval as soon as possible. The council expects to be in a position to seek tenders for the treatment plants, under a single contract, by September 2008. The treatment plant contract will be structured in such a way that the construction of the plants will sequenced as far as possible [895]to dovetail with the completion of the collection systems.

I assure the Senator that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is well aware of the need to improve the waste water services in these towns and villages and he and his Department will continue to co-operate in every way possible with Waterford County Council to have them completed with the minimum of delay.

  Senator Paudie Coffey: I thank the Minister of State for outlining where we are in terms of progress. Lessons should be learned from this application and I hope the Minister and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will take on board the view that where schemes are to be grouped, the question whether foreshore licences for individual applicants are required should be examined. If there is to be such a requirement, that inevitably will delay other applications which may not need them. I would be obliged if the Minister were to take that on board for the faster delivery of schemes in the future. In this case, it has taken five to ten years for delivery, from start to finish, which is unacceptable in this day and age. The Department and its officials should be doing everything possible to ensure schemes are advanced as quickly as possible.

  Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: I certainly will pass on the Senator’s views to the Department of Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which has responsibility for foreshore licences.