Adjournment Debate. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Thursday, 21 February 2002

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 549 No. 2

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Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise this important issue. I also thank the Minister for attending the House to respond to the debate.

There is an urgent need to upgrade the sewerage scheme in Adare, County Limerick. The development of this village and community is severely restricted by the current condition of the sewerage scheme which is totally overloaded. There are great opportunities for residential and tourist development in the village, but these are being frustrated and restricted. Any investors wishing to complete developments have been advised that the sewage disposal system prevents such investment.

One local developer was endeavouring to construct in excess of 100 private houses while another had plans for a smaller number of houses. The projects were discussed with Limerick County Council but both developers were informed that under no circumstances could the developments be accepted due to sewerage limitations.

Adare is an extremely attractive village, some would say the most beautiful village in Ireland, but its vibrant tourism industry is being restricted. Any proposals to improve the tourist product of Adare and the opening up of further tourist attractions are being totally discouraged as promoters are advised that planning permission cannot be considered due to the existing sewerage scheme's limitations.

Proposals to extend a local hotel have been frustrated. The hotel is anxious to increase its capacity in terms of the number of bedrooms, yet this is being discouraged by the planning authority. The hotel also proposed to provide staff accommodation, but this cannot be achieved either so the hotel is being forced to purchase private houses to accommodate its staff. This has the effect of inflating prices and limiting the availability of houses for local people.

Last April, permission to construct eight luxury houses in the grounds of Adare Manor was only granted on the basis that the hotel's own sewage treatment system would be used until the new village scheme was constructed. There is an enormous opportunity for development in Adare and the county council is currently drawing up a development plan for the village. This plan will be sensitive and will complement the image and atmosphere of the village. If carried out, it will improve the commerce of the town and enhance local service providers. It will be a much better village as a result.

Adare is served by a combined sewerage scheme constructed in 1914. The existing sewage treatment works were constructed in 1946 to [465] serve a population of 600 persons. It now serves a population of 1,000, however, and discharges poorly treated sewage into the River Maigue. The sewerage works provide little treatment and they discharge almost raw sewage into the river. The fisheries board is extremely concerned about this and has informed Limerick County Council that it could be prosecuted.

The only saving factor is that in this area, the River Maigue is tidal and quickly removes sewage from the discharge area. It is totally unacceptable that raw sewage should be discharged into the River Maigue. The history of sewerage improvement works goes back over 30 years. In December 1975 the existing system was surveyed and a proposal for adequate sewerage facilities was made. In October 1978 a report was prepared by the council's consulting engineers. Their report was completed in 1979, considered by a meeting of Limerick County Council in that year and subsequently sent to the Department of the Environment for approval in May 1979.

The council received approval for the preparation of contract documents for the scheme in early December 1981. The tenders for site investigation were submitted to the Department of the Environment and Local Government for approval but such approval was not forthcoming. This preliminary report went out of date with the passage of time and in the meantime in July 1986, land was acquired for sewage treatment works and way leave and rights of way were obtained. In November 1992 contract documents for subsoil investigation were forwarded to the Department of the Environment and Local Government for technical assistance and in February 1993 a certificate of planning was submitted to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. The plan was costed in June 1993 at £3.73 million. In 1998, Limerick County Council informed me that it was proposed to engage consultants to revise and update the reports for resubmission to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. I was also informed that any of the original route maps of this scheme would be considered out of date. I was informed in November 2000 that the Department of the Environment and Local Government had given approval to progress planning of the scheme and that the council was in the process of appointing consulting engineers to update the 1978 preliminary report of the scheme which was substantially revised in 1985. I was informed that the revised preliminary report should be completed by 2001 and would be submitted to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. I now understand that in this month of February 2002, the revised preliminary report is about to be submitted to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. I ask the Minister and the Department to act immediately and progress the development of the scheme as quickly as possible. Adare village deserves no less.

Adare is a very beautiful and historic village and it is one of the jewels of Irish tourism. For [466] the people who reside there it is their home, their community. It is in the interest of all that tourism is developed, that the children of the community have the opportunity to live in the area and that the community is enhanced by further residential development. This will enable the community to conservatively grow and to maintain the character and atmosphere of the village.

Adare has many community associations. In 2001, Adare won the Limerick senior hurling championship for the first time ever. I ask the Department to expedite the planning, construction, funding and completion of the scheme. The sewers were laid during a village renewal scheme.

Mr. Jacob: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I thank Deputy Neville for raising this important issue on behalf of his constituents. 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, 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.

In July 2000, the first phase of the water services investment programme, covering the years 2000-02, was announced; the beginning of a rolling programme that will continue up to the end of the NDP in 2006. Funding is being provided under this investment programme for new schemes in every single county. The total allocated for Limerick city and county under the first phase of the programme comes to more than €250 million in respect of 14 schemes. This compares to €122 million worth of schemes in the programme inherited in 1997. The schemes approved under the current programme include such major projects as Limerick main drainage, and sewerage schemes in Castleconnell, Croagh, Kilmallock, Patrickswell, and Adare, major water [467] schemes, such as the Limerick trunk mains, Rosbrien to Patrickswell, Limerick environs and Shannon estuary water supply scheme – phase one, Limerick city southern ring main and Clareville water treatment plant. Foynes water and Clareville/Newcastle rising main 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 different locations around the county.

With regard to the Adare sewerage scheme, as already indicated, it is included in the current water services investment programme. A preliminary report for the scheme was received from Limerick County Council last August. This report was technically examined in the Department but it was found that some issues needed to be re-addressed. Following discussions between the [468] Department, the local authority and the consultants for the scheme, the authority has requested the consultants to make certain revisions to the preliminary report. The current position, therefore, is that further progress on the scheme depends on the submission by Limerick County Council of the revised preliminary report to the Department. It will be given early consideration when it arrives in the Department.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  The report will arrive next week.

Mr. Jacob: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I thank the Deputy.

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