Wednesday, 14 May 2003
Adjournment Matter. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.
I wish to thank the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy McDaid, for being in attendance and I also thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this important matter on the Adjournment.
The Clondra sewerage scheme in County Longford has been a burning issue with the residents of the area for some time. Officials in the Department of the Environment and Local Government have been aware of the matter since 1973, when it was first raised. On several occasions, political statements have been made regarding an early commencement date for the scheme but these have amounted to waffle and hot air.
Clondra is located on the River Shannon, beside the Royal Canal, and has a thriving harbour. It is a heritage and fishing village which attracts huge numbers of tourists every year. Local residents, tour operators, fishery bodies and schools have all expressed serious concerns about the high levels of raw sewage in the vicinity of the village, with obvious health and economic repercussions for the area if the problem is not rectified soon. It is dreadful to see locals and tourists walking around this scenic village, with handkerchiefs held to their faces as they try to block out the smell of raw sewage. The people of the area are greatly embarrassed and distressed by this problem. It is very frustrating that the development of their village has been slowed down by the lack of a sewerage scheme, which it is estimated would cost in the region of €1.3 million.
I request that the Department of the Environment and Local Government approve this sewerage scheme immediately, as pollution in the area is out of control. Infrastructure and village renewal is important for small villages such as Clondra. Given the village's sewage pollution, which in turn is flowing into our waterways and polluting groundwater, it is facing an end to its development and a serious threat to the health and safety of its residents and visitors.
The village of Clondra has approximately 40 houses, a restaurant, two public houses, a community centre, a school and industry. It has an over-concentration of septic tanks in rocky or poor quality soil, which results in pollution of watercourses, such as the Shannon and Camlin rivers and the Royal Canal. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that the sewerage scheme should be approved and constructed immediately.
The key to healthy, sustainable settlement patterns in any village is matching demand for development with the supply of sanitary services. I have raised this issue on many occasions with Longford County Council and was told at last month's meeting that all revised documentation requested by the Department has been with them since 19 February for final approval. In the interests of health and safety, it is important for the Department to approve this scheme immediately. I ask the Minister of State to write to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government in order to rectify the matter as soon as possible.
(Dr. McDaid): I am pleased to reply to Senator Bannon on behalf of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Cullen. The provision of modern environmental infrastructure to support social and economic objectives continues to be a major focus of Government spending. The unprecedented increase in investment by my colleague's Department on water and sewerage schemes under the current and previous national development plans has made a key contribution to economic growth that has benefited every part of the country.
Total investment in water and sewerage facilities over the period of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 will amount to almost €4.9 billion, of which over €4.2 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 total allocated for County Longford under the current phase of the programme comes to over €28.4 million in respect of some 12 schemes. The approved schemes include major sewerage projects at Granard and Ballymahon, which have recently been completed. Schemes at the planning stage include the Longford regional water supply scheme and the Longford sewerage scheme, phase two, which are expected to start in 2004.
Other schemes, which have been approved to enter planning, include sewerage schemes at Drumlish and Newtownforbes, and the review of water supply schemes at Granard and Longford. Under the rural towns and villages initiative, the Lanesborough water supply stage one scheme is being progressed. Sewerage schemes have also been approved at Ardagh, Ballinalee, Aughnacliffe and Clondra. All of these towns and their hinterlands will benefit from the major push to bring our water and sewerage infrastructure up to a modern standard.
With regard to the Clondra sewerage scheme, my colleague's Department is currently examining the design review report, which was submitted by Longford County Council on 19 February 2003. This report reviews the scope of the scheme and reassesses its economic justification. This technical examination is almost complete and Longford County Council will be notified shortly regarding the funding status of the scheme. Once this has been clarified, it will be open to the council to proceed with the preparation of contract documents.
I have listened carefully to what the Senator has said. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, is keen to see schemes like this one advance quickly so that, as the Senator has pointed out, the benefits that will follow for local communities are brought on stream in the shortest possible timeframe.