Seanad debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Adjournment Matters

Water and Sewerage Schemes

7:00 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan. Senator Moloney is very excited that the Minister is present to take this matter.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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I am absolutely delighted the Minister is present to deal personally with this issue and did not send anybody else to take his place. I know I have him plagued about the saga of the Kilcummin sewerage scheme as I raise it with him on the corridors and everywhere I meet him. This is a very important issue.

Kilcummin is located just outside Killarney and the saga of the provision of the sewerage scheme is a long and sorry story. In 2007, the proposed sewerage scheme for Kilcummin was given the green light and funding was provided in conjunction with the Barraduff sewerage scheme. Tenders were issued and the contractor was selected to carry out the works. Work started on the Barraduff scheme first. Along the way problems developed with the contractor which resulted in the Kilcummin part of the scheme being pulled. This was the start of the problem for the people of Kilcummin. Nobody knows what happened to the funding that was provided for the Kilcummin scheme. We cannot get a straight answer to that question in County Kerry. We do not know whether the funds were returned to the Department. All we know is that six years later, Kilcummin has no sewerage scheme.

For the information of members, Kilcummin is the largest parish in Ireland and that is one reason for it having proper facilities to deal with sewerage. I will outline other reasons for my belief that funding for the Kilcummin sewerage scheme is necessary. Probably the most important one is that Kilcummin is in the catchment area of Lough Leane and this scheme was listed as a priority in a campaign to tackle pollution in Lough Leane. Lough Leane is one of the major tourist attractions in Kerry and, as the Minister will appreciate, Killarney is renowned for the beauty of its lakes. A number of businesses in Kilcummin pay significant rates to the local authority. One business alone pays more than ¤10,000 in rates every year. There is a well established nursing home in Kilcummin. In 2006, when the current owners took over the nursing home as a going concern, they were advised by the planners in Kerry County Council that a sewerage scheme would be provided. Since 2006, they have increased their workforce from 26 to 91 staff and they are ready to open a further 16 to 20 beds in the facility and take on another 40 members of staff. Kerry County Council, however, will not entertain the company providing a further expansion of beds until such time as it upgrades its sewerage scheme. This has been costed at ¤100,000 and it simply does not have that money. The lack of a sewerage scheme is hindering job creation. There is planning permission for a number of houses, subject to the provision of a sewerage scheme, and many people must look for an extension of their permission as the current permission is due to expire. As Members will know, extension of planning permission is for a limited period.

I understand that everything is in order for the Kilcummin sewerage scheme to proceed at Kerry County Council but it must await the approval of funding by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. I hope the Minister has come into the Seanad with good news for me to take back to the people of Kilcummin.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I thank Senator Moloney for providing the opportunity to clarify the position on Kilcummin sewerage scheme. As she rightly says, she has made many representations regarding this scheme.

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013 provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Kerry. The programme includes contracts under construction and to commence to the value of more than ¤92 million in Kerry during the period of the programme. It also includes a number of schemes in the country to advance through planning.

Kerry County Council has completed eight schemes or contracts which include sewerage schemes for Firies, Milltown, Farranfore, Rathmore and Barraduff and water supply schemes or contracts in Listowel, Caherciveen and Ardfert. The council expects that the Scart reservoir contract, which is part of the central regional water supply scheme and the Waterville water and sewerage scheme, will be completed by this summer. Kerry County Council also expects to go to tender shortly for the sewerage schemes for Ardfert, Ballylongford and Tarbert. The council is also pressing ahead with its water conservation programme throughout the county. The Kilcummin sewerage scheme is included in the programme as a scheme to advance through planning during the life of the programme.

As the Senator mentioned, Kerry County Council awarded a contract for the combined Kilcummin-Barraduff sewerage scheme in 2007 and work commenced on this contract in April 2007. The contractor at the time, however, was also engaged in construction work on another sewerage scheme, the Milltown sewerage scheme. As a result, progress on the Kilcummin-Barraduff contract was slow. In July 2007, the council suspended the contract in accordance with the terms that were set out in it. The contractor agreed to withdraw from the Kilcummin portion of the contract and resumed work in Barraduff. As a consequence of the problems, no work was carried out on the Kilcummin scheme.

Kerry County Council submitted a revised proposal for the Kilcummin sewerage scheme to my Department in December 2009 and in view of the high unit costs associated with providing this scheme, my Department requested the council in May 2010 to review the scope of the scheme. The council submitted a further proposal to the Department in June 2012. There are still concerns regarding the unit costs of the scheme and arrangements have been made between my Department and Kerry County Council to meet shortly to discuss this latest proposal.

I am conscious of the impacts that the discharges from Kilcummin are having on the local environment and on Lough Leane. I am keen to have these issues resolved and I hope the discussions which will take place between the Department and Kerry County Council will resolve the issue to the benefit of Kilcummin community and I hope, as Senator Moloney has advocated, the scheme will proceed.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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When will funding be made available for this scheme? It seems to me from the Minister's response that the issue has gone back to Kerry County Council but according to Kerry County Council everything is in order at its end. Why has the issue gone back again to Kerry County Council? The funding was made available and it was accepted. The Department asked for a revised figures and that was provided. Now the Department is asking for more discussions on the issue. Must we wait forever for this scheme as every time the council submits the information, it is asked for revised figures as the unit costs are too high? Will the Minister give me some indication as to when this sewerage scheme will be provided, because, as I outlined, many business decisions are dependent on it.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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As the Senator will see from my reply under the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013 , the question of funding for the Kilcummin scheme was not included; it was to advance through planning only. I have been conscious of Senator Moloney's representations on this matter and Kerry County Council and the Department's inspectors have not reached agreement on the unit costs of the scheme. It is up to the technical people in Kerry County Council to convince the Department's inspectorate that this is a viable scheme. If they reach agreement, we are in a position to look at the funding.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 February 2013.