Dáil debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Other Questions

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

4:00 pm

Photo of John MoloneyJohn Moloney (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Question 88: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of waste water schemes built since 1997; the expenditure involved in providing this infrastructure; and the environmental improvements which have resulted. [7489/07]

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Some 239 waste water schemes have been completed since 1997 under my Department's water services investment programme at an Exchequer cost of around €2.3 billion. This investment has transformed the quality, scale and coverage of our national waste water infrastructure. It has resulted in major progress in preserving and improving environmental standards and facilitated the unprecedented social and economic growth and development in every part of the country.

The environmental benefits of the new infrastructure include increased compliance with the requirements of the EU urban waste water treatment directive. This has risen from 25% in 2000 to 90% at present and the remaining schemes necessary for full compliance with the directive are included in my Department's current water services investment programme. The new infrastructure has brought about a reduction of 45,000 tonnes per annum in the pollutant load from municipal discharges to rivers, lakes and seas in a period of unprecedented economic growth. The percentage of river channels that are unpolluted has risen from 67% to 70% and there are more blue flag beaches and bathing areas. In 2006, 84 blue flags were awarded — the highest number ever and which compares to 70 in 1997. The new infrastructure has brought about additional waste water treatment capacity equivalent to the needs of an additional population of 3.3 million.

Investment in new sewerage schemes has also underpinned record levels of new house building and job creation, along with economic expansion at a rate which we have never experienced at any time in our past.

The new National Development Plan 2007-2013 provides for a €1 billion increase on the corresponding provision for water services in the last plan. This will ensure that our achievements to date will continue to be built on in the years ahead.

Photo of John MoloneyJohn Moloney (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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What plans does the Minister of State have for further investment in these schemes?

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister will roll out the national sewage and water scheme on Thursday.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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He will roll it out by the barrel.

Deputies:

It is a huge investment.

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Naturally, there will be significant investment. In March 2006, we asked each of the local authorities to give us an assessment of their needs. We have received these assessments, are taking them into account and will ensure that the major financial input now available to us will be included as part of the overall scheme in terms of further significant investment.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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What does that mean in English?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I have a number of related questions, although I know we are running out of time.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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The same question on assessing the needs of local authorities was asked some years ago and Kildare County Council provided information on its needs in 2002. It is now 2007 and because there has been no action in this regard, particularly in the Osberstown treatment area, applications for planning permission are being refused. What is the point of merely asking for assessments? There should be a guarantee that they will receive a response.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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From the Department's point of view, any scheme under €5 million comes before us only once for approval before being sent back to the local authority to be carried out. The Department has also given a commitment that any scheme that has been before it for six months must be dealt with and returned to the local authority.

I suggest the Deputy ask her local authority to seriously examine how well it is managing to deliver projects that have received approval.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It has been writing to the Minister of State for five years.