Thursday, 25 February 2010
Water and Sewerage Schemes
Cecilia Keaveney (Fianna Fail)
I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting my issue. I appreciate the presence of the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen. He might believe that the marine, which he is in charge of, is unrelated to the environment, but he would not be right, as my Adjournment matter is on two sewerage schemes, one in Newtowncunningham and another in my home town of Moville.
I will start with the latter, given the issue has been ongoing for more than 30 years. I remarked that it was not unrelated to the Minister of State's remit because raw sewage is being pumped into the Foyle in Moville. The surrounding area does not have a basic sewerage infrastructure and issues with the water supply, which needs to be upgraded, must be addressed.
The Newtowncunningham scheme is in the same situation. Land is available for purchase to progress the scheme, but the community is concerned that if there is a delay, the land might not be available in future. It has been identified as a proper site. Those involved in selling the land and those in the community who are trying to progress the scheme are anxious to know the exact position and the timescale on the scheme's delivery.
In my area, there has been a controversy about getting a site. The council decided on a site, had an environmental impact statement, EIS, conducted, went to An Bord Pleanála and put it out for public consultation. The scheme was supposed to be delivered in the 1990s. My main issue is the question of how to bring industries into areas that have lost many jobs. Jobs in the manufacturing sector have been lost all along the Border, including in Inishowen. We have a heavy reliance on fishing and farming in terms of employment, but even those are in decline. If we do not have basic infrastructure, how can we encourage people? Basic infrastructure includes water and sewerage. The lack of infrastructure has stymied development in my area for some time. I cannot understand what or who is causing the delay. Even when times were more flaithiúlacht economically, for want of a better term, the schemes did not progress despite being priorities. In recent days, there have been many political conspiracy theories, but I almost wonder whether there is a conspiracy not to deliver on sewerage schemes in the Inishowen area.
We have the badly needed Moville scheme, but extensions are required in Buncrana and facilities are needed in Ballyliffin and Newtowncunningham. No matter how long they seem to sit as priorities within the council and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, they do not come to fruition. When a project went before An Bord Pleanála, people were told the EIS submitted with it was unnecessary. A couple of months after the EIS was sent back to the council, An Bord Pleanála decided that it actually was necessary. Resubmitting it took one year.
I do not understand the process or why it has been blocked. This might be a serious allegation, but someone is ensuring that this basic infrastructure is not progressing. Who is blocking it? Is it the Department or the council? Perhaps a more pertinent question is what is blocking it. Can we get to the crux of the issue? Is it down to co-funding or can people step forward and say what the problem is?
If we cannot get basic infrastructure, I cannot fight our corner for inward investment as we need to fight it. Added value products in the marine sector could be created in Greencastle and Moville, but not without proper waste water treatment centres. I appreciate this matter is not the Minister of State's direct responsibility, but it has a knock-on effect for his remit. I hope we will not only receive answers, but direct timelines for the schemes' delivery. Uncertainty and ongoing delays are stymying economic investment in my constituency.