Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Water and Sewerage Schemes
I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise the ongoing saga of the Castletownbere sewerage scheme and treatment plant. I became a member of Cork County Council in 1985, which seems a long time ago, and it was already an issue at that time. It might be wrong to use the word "fudged", but it is one of the schemes in County Cork which has been kicked to touch. There have been more passages of play at national and council level than there would be at the best Munster versus Clermont rugby game.
I have raised the position of this scheme for many years. The treatment schemes at Bantry, Schull, Baltimore, Dunmanway and other locations in west Cork are due to proceed after many years of deliberation and requests for funding. I was told six or seven years ago in this House that the funding was in place for the Castletownbere scheme but that there was a issue in regard to its location. In the wake of various plans, consultants' reports and site appraisals, will the Minister of State outline the up-to-date position on the provision of a sewerage scheme and treatment plant for Castletownbere? Is the funding still in place and when is it proposed to commence?
Castletownbere, like any other town, deserves proper facilities. The lack of a sewerage scheme and treatment plant has hindered its progress and development in recent years. Dinish Island has an exceptionally successful fish processing industry but it is being hindered by this lack of facilities. At one stage, the council and the Department differed as to the best location for a sewerage scheme. I hope there has been a meeting of minds in this regard and that I will be able to impart the good news to the people of Castletownbere that the scheme will commence early in the new year.
I thank Senator O'Donovan for the opportunity to clarify the position in regard to the Castletownbere sewerage scheme. The scheme has been approved for funding under the rural towns and villages initiative of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 at an estimated cost of €5.2 million. This programme envisages a total investment of more than €485 million on new and improved water and sewerage infrastructure in County Cork, with some €122 million earmarked for the western division of the county. The Minister is aware that the people of Castletownbere are keenly looking forward to their new sewerage scheme, which is essential for economic and other development in the town. He is also aware that Castletownbere is the largest town on the Beara Peninsula and that it is designated as a development node in the county development plan. The north and west Cork strategic plan also identifies Castletownbere as an area where significant growth is expected.
The proposed sewerage scheme involves the construction of a new waste water treatment plant and the upgrading and improvement of the sewerage collection network in the town. As well as meeting strategic needs, it will also end the current discharge of raw waste water to the sea. At present, my Department is awaiting submission by Cork County Council of the preliminary report for the scheme. I understand this will set out the design parameters and objectives of the scheme and that the council expects to provide it to my Department by mid-2009. In particular, the preliminary report will identify the most appropriate location for the new waste water treatment plant.
Cork County Council examined the possibility of building a waste water treatment plant to treat waste water from the town and from the fish processing plant on Dinish Island. I understand this combined treatment option is no longer being pursued and that the site selection process for a municipal plant has short-listed three possible locations which were recently put out for public consultation. Once the treatment plant site has been determined, the council will have a definite proposal to incorporate into the preliminary report for the scheme. This will receive early consideration on receipt in my Department with a view to the Castletownbere scheme advancing to construction stage as soon as possible.
Cork County Council is also drawing up a preliminary report for the Castletownbere regional water supply scheme which will improve the water supply treatment and distribution system in the town and surrounding areas. This scheme is also included for funding under my Department's water services investment programme. I understand the council's general aim is to deliver the water supply and sewerage schemes in tandem. My Department will do everything possible to facilitate that.