Dáil debates

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Adjournment Debate

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

10:00 pm

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle for facilitating me in raising this matter.

The Doolin sewerage scheme was included in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's water services programme 2007 to 2009 and was to start construction in 2008, but work on it has yet to begin. When I raised this matter by way of parliamentary question in April 2008, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government advised me his Department had provided funding of up to €6.025 million for three schemes, Corofin, Ballyvaughan and Doolin, in August 2007. In the meantime the Corofin project has commenced construction, which I welcome, and a draft foreshore licence is expected to be issued shortly for Ballyvaughan.

The problems being experienced in providing a sewerage scheme in Doolin are replicated in every village and town in County Clare. The shortage of funding for such schemes has meant that many projects have been revised as if they were to cut their cloth to measure. Other instances, such as in Scarrif in east Clare and the experience of the residents of Ballyminogue where an extension of the sewage line to their homes was ruled out, highlight the need for the Minister to explore new and innovative ways of addressing this cost issue to ensure water and sewerage schemes can be extended to rural villages and towns. While Doolin sits and waits, other schemes in Clare have started construction but the majority are still at various stages of progression from Broadford to Carrigaholt, Labasheeda and Cooraclare to Ennistymon, Liscannor, Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point right down into east Clare at O'Callaghans Mills, O'Briens Bridge and Cratloe. The delay in resolving the situation in Doolin is impacting negatively on the development of the village and indeed in the neighbouring town of Miltown Malbay. Projects like roads, footpaths and lighting are all on hold because of this.

The Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, will respond to this Adjournment matter and I am sure he is familiar with Doolin. Many people have holidayed there over the years. It is a coastal village, bordered by Lisdoonvarna and the heartland of north Clare, adjacent to Miltown Malbay and close to the renowned Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. It is a well known centre of traditional Irish music and a popular tourist destination. Many musicians have lived or played there including the late, great Micho Russell and his brothers Packie and Gussie.

Many of those who have visited Doolin have enjoyed Irish music in the village's three pubs. Doolin has a top class tourist product available including accommodation ranging from bed and breakfasts, farmhouses, guesthouses, hotels and hostels to camping, caravan sites and self-catering. Most people living and working in Doolin depend on tourism for a living. More than 3,000 tourists come to Doolin every year during the summer season and it is an appealing tourist location that urgently needs infrastructure. In 2008 it is unacceptable that residents and tourists are forced to walk on unlit roads late in the evening. It is a health and safety issue.

Doolin is also home to a dedicated 26 member rescue service. A group of dedicated individuals, under the captaincy of Mattie Shannon, risk their lives every day for others. I compliment the service and thank it for the work it has done. This volunteer group is operating out of a building that is no bigger than an average garden shed. I hope and pray that a proper facility will be put in place in the new year. Is it right that they should be forced to battle the poor infrastructure while they go about their life-saving work?

Regarding the sewerage scheme, my understanding is that the original proposal was to have an out-fall sewer to the sea. I understand that Clare County Council is now looking at an alternative and that it is in negotiations with a local landowner to purchase a site to put in an alternative treatment plant. An environmental impact assessment is currently being carried out and Clare County Council is awaiting this report.

The purchase of this site will facilitate the relevant laying of pipes joining the redesigned scheme. The Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service will then have to view this proposal and comment on the findings of the report. I urge the Minister of State to ensure that this stage of the process moves as swiftly as possible recognising the ecological issues that must be addressed.

When all the various reports are finalised and the new scheme is re-designed by Clare County Council I urge the Department, and the Minister of State as a neighbouring Oireachtas Member, to speed up the scheme. We do not want the people of Doolin to go without the scheme for another 12 months. They desperately need this infrastructure. The entire area is dependent on the successful completion of this sewerage scheme to complement tourism. I urge the Minister of State to act as quickly as possible.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who regrets that he cannot be present. I thank Deputy Breen for raising this matter.

Doolin is linked with Ballyvaughan and Corofin as part of a grouped sewerage scheme that is funded under my Department's water services investment programme 2007-09. It is one of some 25 water and sewerage schemes included in the programme for County Clare. Together these schemes will provide modern water and wastewater services in almost 40 different areas of the county. The overall value of this package is €236 million and it will make a huge difference to environmental standards and economic development opportunities all over Clare.

The Ballyvaughan, Corofin and Doolin project will provide new wastewater treatment plants for each of the three locations, as well as new and improved sewage collection networks. It will play a major role in facilitating development and supporting the tourism sector, which is of paramount importance to these communities.

The high cost of servicing low density unsewered development has been an issue with a number of sewerage schemes in Clare. It has been necessary to review and adjust the design of these schemes in order to bring costs down to a level where they could be justified in economic terms. This was successfully achieved with the Feakle, Scarriff and Quilty scheme where my Department's Exchequer contribution has been agreed and work is well under way.

The same issue of affordability also arose with the Ballyvaughan, Corofin and Doolin project. Following examination of Clare County Council's water services pricing policy and economic review reports for the project, Exchequer funding of up to €6.025 million was approved by my Department under the water services investment programme in August 2007. The approval of this funding, which is in line with the affordability criteria for all new sewerage schemes, was intended to give Clare County Council a clear financial structure within which it could recast the design of the scheme in a more economically efficient way.

Also in August 2007, approval was given to the council to advance the scheme for Corofin which, unlike the other two locations, does not require a foreshore licence. Work is now under way on that element of the project.

I agree with Deputy Breen on the great appeal of Doolin. Clare County Council is reviewing the proposal in light of the funding available from my Department and issues relating to the foreshore licence. Further progress is therefore in the council's hands at the moment and is not subject to any submission currently before my Department for consideration. I assure the Deputy that the Department will deal quickly with any revised proposals received from the council with a view to getting the scheme to construction at an early date.