Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Water and Sewerage Schemes
Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Teach. Tá dóchas agam go mbeidh dea-scéal aige le hinsint dúinn anocht.
I thank the Cathaoirleach for facilitating me by placing this motion on the Adjournment. I thank the Minister of State for attending and welcome him to the House.
I raise the need for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to give special consideration to the urgent provision of a sewerage scheme in Rathowen, County Westmeath under the water services investment programme to complement the further development of the village. I have a more than passing interest in Rathowen and I spent the first 14 months of married life there. I know the area and people well; they are very caring and formed a development association, through their own initiative, that was responsible, with the local authority, for social housing for the elderly and the not so elderly.
I was pleased to act as facilitator when they wanted to launch their report some years ago. The then EU Commissioner saw fit to visit Rathowen community centre to launch the report. This is a clear indication of the regard the powers that be have for the people of Rathowen and their community spirit. The community centre there is second to none and they have another community hall that is used extensively. Some time ago a well-established premises was converted into a hotel.
The text of this matter refers to complementing the further development of the village. I can say with conviction and certainty that the further development of Rathowen village is being hampered by the lack of a sewerage scheme. Some months ago, when the Minister of State, Deputy Tony Killeen, was passing through County Westmeath he met a number of people, including myself, regarding this scheme. It was considered under the serviced land initiative but the cost per household is prohibitive. I ask that the Minister of State and the Department put one hand on heart and the other deep into a pocket to produce the funding required.
There has been much development in Rathowen. Some years ago a businessman bought an old established licensed premises and developed it into a fine hotel and restaurant. This is but one development that is waiting to progress further. There are other developments that would be complemented by a sewerage scheme. Rathowen is a village with a good sense of community, which has been proved in many ways. I invite the Minister of State, when passing Rathowen, to drop in and see the community centre, the local authority schemes and the private schemes provided by the people of the area.
I will not go into more detail but ask the Minister of State to consider favourably the text of the matter before him this evening. I initiated this process in February 2000 when, as a member of Westmeath County Council, I placed a motion on the council's agenda seeking a sewerage scheme. That is over eight years ago and I like to think that in the life of the current county council the imprimatur will be given to the local authority, through appropriate funding from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to facilitate the provision of this sewerage scheme.
Batt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senator for the opportunity to set out the position on this scheme.
The Rathowen sewerage scheme has been approved for funding under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to advance through planning at an estimated cost of €1.9 million. The scheme is one of a total of 19 water services projects being progressed in County Westmeath at present. The current water services investment programme, which I announced last September, provides for an investment of €219 million in water and sewerage schemes in County Westmeath over the next few years. The range of new water and sewerage schemes planned and in progress for Westmeath provides strong evidence of the Government's determination to safeguard our water quality, while at the same time making provision for new housing, new jobs and all the other requirements of a successful economy.
The village of Rathowen is serviced by individual septic tanks and proprietary wastewater treatment systems. The proposed sewerage scheme for Rathowen will involve the laying of a collection network around the village and the provision of a treatment plant to cater for a population equivalent of 1,000 persons. The scheme is a major infrastructural improvement for the village, catering for the existing population and allowing for reasonable growth and expansion, both in the domestic and non-domestic sectors. The scheme is important in environmental terms, with the proposed treated outfall to the River Black rendering redundant the existing reliance on individual treatment systems.
In November 2005 the Department approved the preliminary report for the scheme which sets out the design and scope of the proposal. However, approval was subject to resolution of the level of funding to be provided towards the cost of the scheme from the non-domestic sector. In June 2006 the Department outlined several concerns regarding the county council's approach to the non-domestic contribution to the scheme costs. It also asked the county council to reconsider the scope for reducing the cost per household.
The county council submitted a design review report to the Department in August 2007. Having examined the matter further, the Department suggested to the county council in December 2007 that the scheme might be more appropriate to the serviced land initiative scheme, under which the Department would meet 40% of costs and the county council would meet the balance, primarily through development levies. In February 2008 the county council responded, asking the Department to reconsider this proposal. The Department will respond to the county council presently.
I am as anxious as Senator Camillus Glynn for the construction and completion of the scheme in Rathowen as quickly as possible. The Department will do everything it can to ensure this happens.
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, for his response. As an eternal optimist, I am hopeful favourable consideration will be given to the project in question. The lack of such a service is stultifying development in Rathowen. Given that the village is in the catchment area of a very fine fishing river, it is imperative the imprimatur for the project is extended to Westmeath County Council and the reconsideration of its proposal is effected in a positive and favourable way.