Thursday, 16 November 2006
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Coonan: I welcome the Minister of State to the House, having not had the opportunity to do so before. This matter is about a proper, modern sewage treatment plant for the town of Templemore. I will not go into the background of this or we would be here for a long time. I will suffice to say that in 1991, I was elected to North Tipperary County Council when it was an issue. In 1994, I was elected to Templemore Urban District Council and it was still an issue.
I appreciate that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has dealt with the issue and has approved a sewage treatment system for Templemore. However, it has not yet been built and this has stifled development in Templemore. We are in an era of high levels of development and Templemore has lost out to a large extent. The public and developers in the area are now very frustrated that the plant has not been built.
The Department announced three different schemes for Templemore. The first is a DBO, or design, build and operate plant for the town. The second is a septic tanks effluent drainage system, or STEDS. I compliment the Department on that because it is a pilot scheme and is unique in Ireland. The Department’s officials are co-operating with local officials to establish that system in the town. The final scheme to be approved is the SLI, or service land initiative, for another area of Templemore.
When I left local government in Templemore three years ago following the legislation enacted to abolish the dual mandate, we were told that the plant would be up and running by the end of that year. However, we still do not have such a plant. Ancillary works were carried out over 12 months ago, but there is still no sign of the plant. I do not wish to make a political issue of this and I complimented the Minister of State and the Department for announcing the scheme. It was announced in 1997 and again in 2002. An important even is due to take place in 2007 but I am worried that the plant may not be constructed by then. What is causing the delay? If there is anything the Minister and the Minister of State can do to speed up the construction, the people of Templemore and the surrounding areas would appreciate it very much.
Mr. N. Ahern: I thank the Senator for raising this issue. The Department’s water services investment programme 2005-07, published last December, includes 18 major water and sewerage schemes for North Tipperary, with a value of over €90 million. The Thurles, Roscrea and Newport areas will all benefit from new or upgraded water supply schemes, as will towns and villages in the north west of the county that will be served by the new north-west regional water supply scheme. In addition, Thurles, Ballina, Nenagh, Newport, Roscrea, Borrisleigh, Cloughjordan, Dromineer, Rearcross and Silvermines can all look forward to new sewerage systems. The €5.8 million Templemore sewerage scheme is also part of the Department’s water services investment programme.
There are two elements to the Templemore scheme. The Department approved Templemore Town Council’s tender recommendation for the upgrading of the old sewage collection network in 2004, including separation of the foul and storm water sewers in the town. This allowed the council to deal with the lack of capacity in the network and to resolve the problems caused by both the foul and storm water feeding into and overloading the existing treatment plant. I understand that these works are now complete.
The second component of the scheme is the upgrading of the treatment plant and again I can report positive progress. Last February, the Department approved North Tipperary County Council’s contract documents for the plant upgrade, which cleared the way for the invitation of tenders from a panel of short-listed contractors. The closing date for tenders was in September and the council is now examining the bids received with a view to selecting the most economically advantageous tender. The design, construction and subsequent operation of the upgraded plant were all included in the tender process and this will speed up completion of the project once the contract has been awarded. The Department is currently awaiting the results of the council’s examination of the tenders for the treatment plant. Funding for the project has been allocated in the investment programme and it can be drawn down from the Department as soon as it is needed by the council.
I have listened carefully to what the Senator has said, and while the next move is up to North Tipperary County Council, we can anticipate the early appointment of a contractor to build the treatment plant and a quick start to the upgrading works. This is very much in the remit of the county council. If the closing date for the tenders was in September, the council must be nearly ready to roll at this stage. I hope the Senator can use his influence with councillors at local level to speed up the decision on the tenders. The ball seems to be in their court at this stage.
Mr. Coonan: I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I do not disagree with anything he said, but I would like to point out two aspects. First, I have heard before about closing dates for contractors regarding this scheme. It has been going on at least since 1991 and we want to get it built as quickly as possible. Second, the situation in Templemore is unique. It is a Templemore solution to a Templemore problem, just as there are often Irish solutions to Irish problems. Planning permission was granted for houses in Templemore with the proviso that one could build them but not live in them until the sewerage plant went up.
Another issue of great concern is that there are a plethora of treatment plants around Templemore so that developments can go ahead, and that is not entirely satisfactory. There is a delay, and I accept that the Minister of State is not at the relevant Department. That gives me the ammunition that I need to go back to the county council, and I thank the Minister of State.
Mr. N. Ahern: I presume they got the tenders in on time. The closing date for tenders is a legal issue, and one cannot slip them in late. I do not know what is causing the delay but I will make inquires in the Department. The Senator might also make his inquiries at his end. We will see what happens.
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