Wednesday, 23 March 2005
Water and Sewerage Schemes.
I too am grateful to the Cathaoirleach for including this matter on the Adjournment. It is a matter of vital interest to the people of Rathmore which is a key gateway to the kingdom of Kerry. Last week I attended a meeting of the community council. People are very agitated regarding the Firies-Scartaglen southern section B new water project.
Before proceeding, I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, to the House. He is very familiar with this gateway as he hails from a little further east in Cork. I hesitate to mention gateways because of the spatial strategy and other places that have been nominated as gateways. Rathmore is a very important gateway to the kingdom of Kerry from the eastern side. The Minister of State will be very familiar with the area.
In the matter of the Rathmore domestic water supply, the Minister of State will be aware that demand exceeds supply by approximately 25,000 gallons per day. As a result of this problem the water in the reservoir drops and Rathmore users have little or no water pressure for domestic use. The county council solution has been to cut off the water at night to allow the reservoir to fill up overnight. Unfortunately for some people who have to go to work early, they must leave without having water to boil a kettle for breakfast or taking a shower. Electric showers have been damaged and houses have been flooded due to people forgetting to turn off taps, having turned them on in the hope of having water. The on-off frequency can vary from no cut-off for months to a pattern of every night for weeks. The county council solution has been in place for many years and is not acceptable in this day and age. The people of the area have listened to the Department blaming Kerry County Council and vice versa in respect of the submission of documents about the water scheme. This has been the situation for over 12 months. They are very interested in the Minister of State providing a solution which I hope to hear from him now in theHouse.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue which I know is of great importance to the people of Rathmore and of south-east Kerry generally. I am aware of their concerns andhave been taking a personal interest in this scheme.
A major focus of Government spending over the past number of years has been the provision of modern environmental services to support social and economic objectives. This has led to unprecedented investment in new water and sewerage infrastructure throughout the country under the national development plan.
The Firies-Scartaglen water supply scheme is one of more than 800 such projects being funded as part of my Department's water services investment programme 2004-06. The Firies-Scartaglen scheme will improve the water supply for Gneeveguilla and surrounding area, replace the existing stream source serving Barraduff village and augment the water supply to Rathmore village. All the works have been approved for construction under the water services investment programme. I understand that a number of advance sections have already been completed in conjunction with the Rathmore sewerage scheme and road realignment between Rathmore and Barraduff. The remaining works include the construction of two reservoirs, one at Gallum and the other at the existing reservoir site at Knocknageeha. There will also be approximately 18 km of new distribution and rising mains to deliver the improved water supply to consumers in the supplyzone.
My Department authorised Kerry County Council to invite tenders for these main elements of the scheme in April 2004. Earlier this month the council submitted a proposal to my Department to appoint a contractor for the civil works contract. The recommendation is under examination in the Department and I can assure the Senator that there will be absolutely no avoidable delay in dealing with it. A recommendation from the council for the appointment of a mechanical and electrical contractor is, however, still awaited. I understand that this recommendation is also expected to be with the Department shortly. When it comes to hand it will be promptly considered. Following approval the council will then be in a position to place both contracts. Funding of over €4.3 million has been set aside for the scheme in the water services investment programme 2004-06. My Department's commitment to ensuring that improvements to the Rathmore, Barraduff and Gneeveguilla water supplies are brought about as speedily as possible is clearly demonstrated by the advance works that were previously approved and have now been completed. I can assure the Senator that the Government will be particularly pleased to see the schemes as a whole move forward to construction. My Department is aware that the three villages are being adversely affected by inadequate water supplies and that there have been overnight supply disruptions in Rathmore. The new scheme will solve all these shortcomings and ensure that all three locations will in future be guaranteed a continuous, reliable supply of top quality drinking water. As a near neighbour I wish to assure Senator Coghlan that this phase of the project will be completed with all speed.
I accept the Minister of State's good intentions and thank him for his reply in which I see the answer to the burning question. The Department is right to blame the council in one instance but equally the council is waiting on his Department in the other instance. I was not aware of the two things.
It is important to state that there has been no delay from the Department's point of view. The submission has been made to us in recent weeks. Obviously, the Department must examine the submission. We have given a commitment that we will deal with this in all due haste because it is part of an infrastructural programme that we are very anxious to bring on-stream.