Seanad debates

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

7:00 pm

Michael Finucane (Fine Gael)
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Prior to the last general election in 2002 the residents of Athea, County Limerick, were promised that a sewerage scheme would commence in the near future. As we face another general election, they are correctly asking when the scheme will commence. The scheme is urgently needed, as housing development in the area is being impeded. The lack of housing also has an impact on the local primary school. In addition, the existing deficient sewage scheme is also polluting rivers. The proposed scheme has been bundled with schemes for Shanagolden, Askeaton, Foynes and Glin. The bundled project is estimated to cost €16 million and the intention of the bundling process was to reduce to cost of the overall project. However, it is a bureaucratic nightmare that ten different phases must be completed from inception to construction before a major capital project can proceed. While the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government announced this red tape would not apply for projects costing less than €5 million, because of the bundling of schemes, it is rare that a sewerage project costs less than this in County Limerick.

When I raised the issue on 14 June last, the Minister of State said he had received fee proposal and cost estimates from Limerick County Council. When can the council commence construction on this project? With regard to the provision of water and sewerage schemes generally, the Government has neglected west Limerick. Adare, Askeaton, Patrickswell, Glin, Shanagolden, Foynes, Athea, Dromcollogher, Bruff and Kildimo are all in urgent need for upgraded sewerage schemes, yet none has been provided. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.

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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I thank the Senator for raising this issue again. The Department's water services investment programme 2005-2007, published last December, includes funding for more than 20 water and sewerage schemes throughout Limerick. Rather than leaving Limerick behind, we are looking after it well. Towns and villages such as Adare, Patrickswell, Askeaton, Foynes, Glin, Shanagolden, Kilmallock, Dromcollogher, Hospital, Pallasgreen and Bruff can all look forward to new or upgraded sewerage schemes. Many areas will also benefit from improved water supplies from the major upgrade of the Clareville water treatment plant, improvements to the Shannon Estuary water supply scheme and extensions of the Limerick county trunk water mains. In total, almost €158 million has been allocated under the programme for water and sewerage schemes in Limerick. It is clear from all of this that a very large number of towns and villages in Limerick are directly benefiting from the drive to bring our water and sewerage infrastructure up to a modern standard.

I am pleased to confirm that the Athea sewerage scheme is also included in the investment programme. It is being advanced as part of a grouped project, which includes the Askeaton, Foynes, Glin and Shanagolden sewerage schemes and which is scheduled to commence construction in 2007. The Department is awaiting submission of Limerick County Council's preliminary reports for the project. These reports will set out details of the proposed scope and costs of the schemes and of the council's proposals for advancing them. Approval of the preliminary reports will allow the council to draw up contract documents on which bids for the construction of the schemes can be invited.

I assure the Senator that I am as keen as him for the scheme to get under way, that funding has been allocated for it and that the Department will deal with the preliminary report as urgently as possible as soon as it is received from Limerick County Council. Perhaps the Senator might have a word with council officials so that they might expedite the report to my Department. I assure him that we will deal with it expeditiously as soon as we receive it.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this issue and I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. Mountbellew, County Galway, is an expanding market town but it has been hampered by the lack of an appropriate sewerage scheme. A number of improvements are needed because new housing estates have been built around the town and others are planned. It has reached the stage where a contractor must install a treatment system for each scheme of houses, which is a bad reflection of the way in which waste and waste water are dealt with in this day and age. Recently, planning permission was granted for a new factory in the town. Improvements in the sewerage scheme are badly needed, given the impending development of new housing estates and a new industry.

In the various water and sewerage programmes over the years, Mountbellew has been mentioned. It is listed as a project to be completed in 2007 involving a cost of €2.2 million. It is urgently required. With the amount of development that is taking place, I hope the Department will ensure that provision of this scheme will soon be announced.

A public meeting will be held in Mountbellew on 6 November and people are seeking answers in regard to the provision of this scheme. They are frustrated there is such a delay in providing the scheme in this town in which there is considerable development. I hope the Minister of State will have some good news for the people of Mountbellew in the not too distant future.

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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I thank Senator Kitt for raising this issue. The Department's water services investment programme 2005-2007, published in December 2005, includes some 60 major water and sewerage schemes, with a value of more than €451 million, for Galway. The Mountbellew sewerage scheme is being bundled with a number of other schemes in the county for procurement purposes and is scheduled to commence in 2007. Funding has been allocated and it will be able to go to construction once the planning and procurement procedures have been completed. My Department is currently awaiting Galway County Council's preliminary report on the proposed scheme. As the cost of the scheme is under €5 million, it will benefit from the more streamlined procurement procedures introduced earlier this year, which reduced from four to two the number of approval stages.

The scheme is an important one for the local community. It will ensure that the town has a sewerage scheme capable of meeting current and future demands, and that environmental standards will be preserved and improved for the benefit of the town and its residents. I assure Senator Kitt that I am keen to ensure the scheme gets under way and I understand the frustration of the people in Mountbellew in this regard. My Department will deal with the preliminary report and treat it in as urgent a manner as possible once it is received from Galway County Council. The Senator might discuss it with Galway County Council so that it can be expedited and forwarded to the Department.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State for his reply.