Skip to main content
Normal View

Thursday, 15 Oct 2009

Chapter 19 — Investments in Carbon Credits.

Ms Geraldine Tallon (Secretary General, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government) and Dr. Mary Kelly (Director General, Environmental Protection Agency) called and examined.

We are on Special Report 65 of the Comptroller and Auditor General — water services; and chapter 19 of the 2008 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General — investments in carbon credits.

I draw everyone's attention to the fact that while members of the committee enjoy absolute privilege, the same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee which cannot guarantee any level of privilege to witnesses appearing before it. I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House, or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Members are also reminded of the provisions within Standing Order 158 that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policy or policies.

I welcome Ms Geraldine Tallon, Secretary General, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Perhaps she might introduce her officials.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Thank you. I am accompanied by the following: Mr. Peter McCann, finance officer of the Department; Ms Maria Graham of the water services section; and Mr. Pat Macken of the climate change section.

I also welcome Dr. Mary Kelly, director general of the Environmental Protection Agency. Perhaps she might introduce her officials.

Dr. Mary Kelly

Thank you. I am accompanied by Dr. Ken Macken of our climate change unit.

I also welcome Ms Marie McLaughlin of the Department of Finance. I ask Mr. Buckley to introduce Special Report 65 as well as the 2008 annual report, chapter 19, investments in carbon credits.

Mr. John Buckley

One of the responsibilities of public organisations is to ensure that the services they procure or provide are effective. Consequently, they are required to put mechanisms in place to enable them to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their operations. Today, we are looking at that monitoring role in two areas, first, in regard to the provision of drinking water and, second, in regard to tracking Ireland's compliance with international obligations to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

To first deal with water supplies, the EPA was designated the agency responsible for supervision and enforcement of water quality standards from 2007 onwards. This resulted in an increased emphasis on monitoring and control procedures at local authority level and the compilation of a national remedial action list of 339 public water supplies that required attention in order to resolve water quality problems. Half of these were scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.

In regard to the results of monitoring, which is designed to ensure that local authorities meet the minimum standard of fitness for human consumption set out in national or EU guidelines, the results found there was little improvement over the period 2004-07, with public water supplies remaining static at 98% of the standard, while private water scheme compliance improved by 2% to 95%. However, it must be acknowledged that the latest EPA report published in April 2009 reported an improvement in that testing levels had increased. The previous report had found inadequate monitoring at 123 group water schemes supplied from public sources and almost 16% of public group water schemes had no monitoring at all. There was also an improvement in that e-coli was detected in a smaller number of cases but contamination still occurred in 5% of public supplies and 31% of private group water schemes.

In addition, 83 public water supplies had been removed from the remedial action list due to upgrading, replacement or improvement. On the other hand, by early 2009, a further 62 had been added, leaving the remedial action list at 320 supplies by the end of March 2009. Overall, systematic quality measurement and the information that it provides should position the State to make investment decisions based on feedback and evidence and because water quality problems are clearly identifiable, their remediation can be factored into future investment prioritisation.

Turning to carbon credits, chapter 19 of the 2008 annual report sets out Ireland's progress in meeting obligations under the Kyoto agreement. EU countries have a co-ordinated approach to the administration of their obligations. Within this, Ireland's target is to limit greenhouse gas emissions so that, by December 2012, they will be no higher than 113% of the level they stood at in 1990. For purposes of administration, the economy was divided into two broad categories so that approximately one third of the emissions quota was allocated to the trading sector while emissions emanating from other sectors of the economy are the responsibility of the State. For both sectors, there were two ways of managing their adherence to the quota or cap, one concerning abatement measures designed to reduce those emissions and the other concerning the purchase of credits in cases where excess emissions were generated.

In the area for which the State was responsible, based on the then economic projections, it was estimated that the State, after taking account of abatement measures, would need to purchase 18 million units by 2012, and €290 million was allocated for that purpose. To date, 8.3 million units have been acquired at a cost of €114 million. As a result of the economic downturn, it is now estimated that the 8.3 million already acquired units will be sufficient to meet Ireland's obligations but this will need to be kept under review. Overall, both reports show that binding environmental obligations can give rise to financial effects, whether in the form of penalties, credit purchase obligations or a need for focused investment, and that in order to manage them effectively, these obligations must be factored into future resource allocation decisions.

Thank you. I call Ms Tallon to make her opening statement. I apologise but I must leave the meeting for a time.

Deputy Brendan Kenneally took the Chair.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I thank the committee for the opportunity to make a brief introductory statement on the matters to be addressed this morning. I will first address the Special Report chapter on water services, and then deal with chapter 19 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's 2008 annual report in regard to investment in carbon credits.

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General regarding water schemes recognises that the two main drivers of investment in the 2002 to 2007 period were meeting increased supply requirements and compliance with EU drinking water standards. The period under review also saw the introduction of a number of key legislative and administrative changes aimed at protecting and improving water quality and strengthening the approach to water quality monitoring by the EPA and local authorities. A total of €553 million was provided for major water schemes under the Department's water services investment programme in the period under review, with a further €596 million provided over the period for the rural water programme.

As noted in the report, investment in major supplies between 2002 and 2007 resulted in increased drinking water capacity equivalent to the needs of a population of 400,000. Some 48 major water schemes were completed in this period, with further increases in supply facilitated through the serviced land initiative and schemes also advanced in the area of water conservation. Taking the decade as a whole, some 83 major schemes were completed in the period to the end of 2008 and 60 of the 150 schemes in progress are water supply schemes.

Following the judgment of the European Court of Justice against Ireland in 2002 in regard to implementation of the drinking water directive, the Department embarked on a major programme of investment to address drinking water quality problems in over 1,600 public and group water supplies. For the public water supplies covered by the judgment, extensive infrastructural investment has been provided to address inadequate treatment facilities and, in addition, chlorine monitors and alarms are being installed on each of these schemes. Over 500 public supplies have now been brought into compliance, with the remaining 125 schemes to be addressed before the end of 2009. The problem of non-compliant group water schemes has also been substantially resolved, with the remaining 83 schemes covered by the judgment to be addressed over the next 12 months. These arrangements were complemented by the greater enforcement powers given to the Environmental Protection Agency under the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations 2007.

In its annual reports on drinking water quality, the EPA reported steady improvements in rates of compliance with the mandatory drinking water standards, and substantial increases in the number of water quality tests being conducted by local authorities.

It might be helpful to highlight some of the key findings. Compliance with microbiological parameters has improved steadily for public water supplies from 97.7% in 2003 to 99.3% in 2007. There were further reductions in the number of water supplies where e.coli was detected in 2007 — the number of public supplies was down from 77 to 52 while group supplies went from 246 to 184. Approximately 240,000 tests were carried out on drinking water in 2007, an 8.1% increase on the number of tests carried out in 2006.

The EPA has also demonstrated its readiness to use the enforcement powers it has been given and it has reported on the legally-binding directions it has issued and the prosecutions it has taken. In recent years a multi-agency approach, involving my Department, the EPA, the HSE and the local authorities, has been put in place to deal with the identification of water supplies which might be at risk and the determination and implementation of the appropriate remedial actions required to eliminate risks. These arrangements were enhanced in 2008 through the establishment by the EPA of its remedial action list, RAL, with significant resources committed to addressing the most at-risk supplies. My Department and the agency have put in place quarterly monitoring arrangements to track progress on the implementation of remedial actions on the supplies on the list.

The protection of drinking water sources needs to be complemented by robust systems to deal with any incident of contamination that might occur. Earlier this year, the Department issued instructions to local authorities to prepare drinking water incident response plans for drinking water supply in their areas. My Department has also instructed local authorities to publish on their websites the results of their drinking water monitoring activities.

The combination of targeted investment and more intensive supervision of water supplies and enforcement, together with the multi-agency approach to identifying and addressing at-risk supplies are clear evidence of the improvements in the procedures and practices to monitor the effectiveness of water services that were highlighted in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report.

I will turn now to the issue of investment in carbon credits. It should first be acknowledged that the Kyoto Protocol presented a formidable challenge for all participating states. Equally, the advanced position taken by the EU in combating climate change presented its own challenges; the cap and trade scheme under the EU directive on emissions trading established the largest such scheme in the world. The fundamental elements of Ireland's strategy for meeting our target involve domestic emission reductions across the economy, participation of in excess of 100 Irish installations in the EU emissions trading scheme, and the purchase of a limited number of carbon credits in accordance with the flexible mechanisms provided in the Kyoto Protocol.

Both the initial national climate change strategy, published in 2000, and the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 signalled the possibility of supplementing greenhouse gas emission reductions by the purchase of carbon credits on the international market. In particular, the latter strategy set out the national policy framework for the purchase of those credits for purposes of compliance during the Kyoto commitment period 2008 to 2012. The purchase of credits is a valid option under, and an integral part of, the Kyoto Protocol. It should, however, be stressed that, under Kyoto, the role of purchasing credits is supplementary to domestic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the individual state. It is not a substitute for such action, and therefore the strategy indicated that purchase of credits would account for approximately 20% of the necessary emissions reductions.

In March 2006, the Government decided to purchase up to approximately 18 million credits in the first Kyoto commitment period 2008 to 2012, approximately 3.6 million per annum. A total of €270 million was designated under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 for the purchase of those credits, based on an estimate of €15 per credit. In addition, a once-off provision of €20 million was provided in the Vote of the Department in 2006 for the purpose of commencing the purchase of carbon allowances on behalf of the State through investment in the multilateral carbon credit fund offered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD. The agreement with the EBRD was entered into in December 2006 prior to the designation of the National Treasury Management Agency as purchasing agent.

In budget 2006, the Minister for Finance announced the establishment of a carbon fund and the designation of the National Treasury Management Agency as purchasing agent on behalf of the State. In January 2007, some €10 million each was committed to the Carbon Fund for Europe and the BioCarbon Fund operated by the World Bank following the approval in December 2006 by the Dáil.

Ireland notified its national allocation plan for the emissions trading sector in the Kyoto commitment period, 2008 to 2012, to the European Commission on 13 July 2006. National policy underpinning the plan had been approved by Government in March 2006, and responsibility for the design and implementation of the plan was assigned to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan provides the framework for participation by some 109 Irish installations in the EU emissions trading scheme. It identifies the proportion of national emissions assigned to emissions trading, and the distribution of these emissions among the participating installations.

In terms of context, the national allocation plan does not stand in isolation and must be viewed as one of three fundamental elements of Ireland's overall response to its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol; the other two elements are emission reductions generally throughout the economy through domestic action, and the purchase of carbon credits in lieu of domestic reductions. The extent to which Ireland was progressing all three elements was a key factor in obtaining Commission approval for the plan. Securing investment with the EBRD and the World Bank represented a significant first step towards purchasing carbon credits. That was important in demonstrating progress towards national compliance with the Kyoto Protocol and in meeting the Commission's concerns around the balance of action across the three elements of emissions reduction.

The recent economic downturn has significant implications in the short term for national emissions reduction activity, including the purchasing programme. Policy and progress are informed by greenhouse gas emissions inventories and projections compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with a range of State and other expert bodies, including energy data compiled by Sustainable Energy Ireland. Earlier this year, in light of the ESRI's Economic Shock scenario, the EPA was asked to prepare an emissions sensitivity analysis to reflect the changed economic situation.

In that analysis, in March last, the EPA has projected that, with full implementation of all of the emission reduction measures that have already been announced, the "distance to target" for Kyoto compliance will now be between 1.3 and 1.8 million tonnes per annum over the 2008 to 2012 period, approximately 3 million tonnes below the original target set in March 2006. The "distance to target" is the gap which must be bridged by further measures, or by Government purchase of credits under the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol.

It is clear that deterioration in the short-term macroeconomic outlook has an immediate effect on greenhouse gas emissions projections. Economic and emissions data this year have underlined the reduced need for the purchase of credits. Hence, it was considered prudent in those circumstances to instruct the NTMA to put its carbon purchasing programme on hold for the foreseeable future. This will remain the position pending analysis of emissions data for 2008 which the Environmental Protection Agency will finalise later this year. Further purchases in the short term may prove unnecessary. Those already committed to will be used to count towards compliance in the Kyoto commitment period or may be banked for use against the more stringent emissions reduction target Ireland will face in the commitment period to 2020.

Looking to the future, there will always be uncertainty in dealing with markets and economic projections. I agree with the conclusion in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report that the carbon credits purchasing programme needs to be kept under ongoing review. That is so in light of both the current economic situation and in the context of the current negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Thank you, Chairman.

I thank Ms Tallon. Is it in order to publish the Secretary General's statement?

Ms Geraldine Tallon


Deputy McCormack will commence questioning.

The Secretary General indicated that 500 schemes were brought into compliance. What was the figure she cited on the number of schemes not yet assessed?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Out of the schemes covered by the European Court of Justice ruling, I stated that more than 500 have been brought into compliance and the remaining 125 schemes were in the course of being addressed. Group water schemes are also substantially resolved. There are 83 schemes covered by the judgment which remain to be addressed over the next 12 months.

That indicates that 625 water schemes were not in compliance for a long period. How many water schemes are there in total? Of what types of water schemes does the figure of 625 non-compliant schemes consist? Are they public or group schemes?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The 625 schemes are public water supplies. The remainder of the schemes are group water schemes. The EPA reports overall on more than 3,000 water supplies, just over 950 of which are public supplies. The balance is group water schemes. Overall, we have more than 5,000 group water schemes.

The figure of 625 refers to schemes from public water supply sources.

Ms Geraldine Tallon


For how long and until when were the schemes non-compliant? When were the 500 schemes brought into compliance?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The judgment of the European Court of Justice was issued in 2002. A range of issues was identified in that judgment. Work to achieve compliance has been undertaken over the period since 2002. A range of issues was identified. Many schemes have required major investment in new treatment, many schemes required better operation and maintenance and many schemes required more formalised monitoring programmes. Part of the issue of compliance is around compliance with the required programmes of monitoring. They do not all necessarily have deficient water quality. In some instances, non-compliance is recorded on a scheme because an insufficient number of samples may have been taken over a particular period of time.

How does the Secretary General respond to the Comptroller and Auditor and General's finding that 123 water schemes are polluted and 16% of group water schemes are not monitored?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The Department is clearly concerned that water supplies should be monitored in accordance with the requirements of national and Community legislation. We would expect local authorities to comply with those requirements and we have strengthened the enforcement powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor, report and take action in the event of non-compliance.

What action does the Department take against those local authorities in which the polluted and unmonitored water schemes referred to in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report are located?

Deputy Róisín Shortall took the Chair.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

As far as we are concerned, where issues of non-compliance are identified, they are managed now under the remedial action list which I mentioned in the course of my statement. We assess every scheme identified on the Environmental Protection Agency's remedial action list. We review it in terms of whether there are issues associated with management and operation in the wider catchment because virtually all of these schemes are surface water sources and they are susceptible to pollution within the wider environment. The remedial action list is designed to profile all of the schemes that are at risk from the catchment right to the tap.

As far as the Department is concerned, we have looked at every one of the schemes identified on the list. We identify whether there are issues in relation to source protection. We identify whether there are issues that are, if one likes, minor in terms of remedial works. In many instances, there were minor issues associated with the need to put in chlorine and turbidity monitors. In a number of instances, there are significant investment requirements and the schemes in question are brought onto the water services investment programme. In some areas, there are issues of operation and maintenance. These issues can include insufficient sampling and insufficient compliance with the monitoring regime.

As I said, we have given specific enforcement powers to the Environmental Protection Agency to use in those situations. It is a judgment of the EPA's office of environmental enforcement as to whether in particular instances prosecution — at the extreme — would be warranted.

How can the Department ensure that conflict does not arise between local authorities and the Department on which water projects are approved?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

One can never rule out that there may be a difference of view when all authorities are competing for funding-financing. While the water services investment programme has remained at a high level, nonetheless there is competition for funds. It would be unreasonable not to say that. The Department has a very active preparatory regime in association with the development of the water services investment programme. It is a requirement at local authority level that each authority prioritises the investment requirements for its area in accordance with criteria which the Department has set out in circular.

The Department has set out the kind of criteria that should denote priority at local level. They revolve principally around the achievement of compliance with the drinking water standards and investment necessary to sustain economic activity in an area. It is the role of the local authority to identify priorities, consult locally and agree this with the elected members of the authority. We have asked all local authorities to give us their priority listings for the period 2010 to 2012. The deadline for that is coming later this month. Local authorities will have been actively developing their priority listings over the past number of months. When we have all of the lists from authorities, there will then be a job to do in terms of the overall national prioritisation within that. We will be looking critically at the prioritisation at local level in terms of the outstanding areas of compliance in areas where there are severe capacity constraints, a requirement for development for the future, consistency with the national spatial strategy, development, population growth and population projections.

It is not clear to me what checks are in place. For example, the proposed new Terryland plant in Galway city, which I am very familiar with, was included in the water services investment programme by the Department for 2004-06 but was not acted upon by the local authority, which led to the situation in Galway city in 2006 where large sections of the city's water scheme was polluted. The areas affected included Mervue, Bohermore and Claddagh, mainly in the old local authority housing estates where lead pipes had been used as the method of supplying water to those houses.

If the Terryland plant scheme had been progressed in 2004, as was planned in the Department's programme, we would have avoided the problem because the new plant at Terryland is the solution to the problem in Galway city. How did that slip through? Where did the monitoring come in there? If it was in the Department's programme for 2004-06, who checked up on it? Did anybody check its status with the local authority? Was any penalty imposed on the local authority for not having bothered to proceed with the scheme which was in the programme?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The schemes covered in the 2004-06 programme and the 2007-09 programme were not necessarily all designated to come to construction and completion within the specified period.

I am quite aware of that. It did not happen. I am asking Ms Tallon why it did not happen if it was in the Department's programme. Was any check carried out in the local authority to see why it was not proceeding with or planning the new water plant at Terryland in Galway city if it was in the Department's programme? Did somebody not ask the city council why it was not proceeding with what was in the programme?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I was just explaining to the Deputy that not all schemes in the programme would necessarily come to construction within the period of the programme.

How is it decided which ones do and which ones do not? Galway city has a population of 75,000. Was there not a concern that there should be clean drinking water in the city?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

It is a concern that there should be clean drinking water in the city. There was recognition of the population growth in the city area. The scheme for the old Terryland plant was in operation. The new Terryland scheme was at the planning stage. There was also provision for the county scheme at Limnagh——

I am aware of that.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

——to provide a supply of water into Galway city.

That did not solve the problem

Ms Geraldine Tallon

There were different elements to the potential solution. In the case of the new Terryland plant, we took out a number of advanced elements of the scheme and moved them ahead more quickly than might have otherwise been the case, so that advanced aspects of the new Terryland scheme were brought forward as quickly as possible within the programme and are due to be completed this month.

That is like closing the stable door when the horse has bolted and is a couple of miles down the road. Extreme damage was done to the population of Galway city and its good name as a university and tourism city. Ms Tallon is still not making it clear to me how this scheme slipped through and was not proceeded with in the 2004 programme when it was in the Department's programme as a priority. Did anybody in the Department, then or since, ask the relevant people in Galway City Council what it was doing sitting on its hands instead of proceeding with the treatment works at Terryland?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

We take our responsibilities seriously in the Department. We have to rely on local authorities in their own areas to continue to advance schemes. We also look very closely at water monitoring data as it appears on an annual basis from EPA reporting. Galway city water was sampled over 500 times in 2006. The problem which emerged subsequently in 2007, namely, cryptosporidium, was not picked up in sampling in 2006. The compliance rate in 2006 was just over 99%, in terms of water quality issues.

What happened between 2006 and 2007 which changed that, when we were dealing with the same system?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

As I understand it, at that stage what triggered concern were elevated turbidity levels in the water and as the Deputy knows Galway water is very reliant on the Corrib and the Corrib basin. We are vulnerable, through the use of surface water sources in many areas, to activity within the catchment of such water supplies. If one's water supply catchment is in an active agricultural area for example, there are lots of concerns around activity, run-off, etc., in such catchments. Elevated turbidity in the water was the risk factor there which, unfortunately, caused pollution which occurred in early 2007 following a period of extremely bad weather.

There is a requirement that local authorities are required to submit the results of monitoring carried out in accordance with the relevant drinking water legislation of the EPA. That is a requirement. Have any monetary penalties been imposed to date for breaches of the indictable offences under those regulations? How many legal actions have been taken against local authorities? Have there been any? We will come to the Corrib in a moment.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I am not aware of any monetary penalties imposed by my Department. The EPA may be in a position to speak in terms of enforcement action taken under the 2007 regulations.

Perhaps the EPA could come in at this point on that issue.

Dr. Mary Kelly

The 2007 regulations give the EPA powers of enforcement on drinking water. We enforce the standards on the local authorities for public water supplies and local authorities are in charge of enforcing standards on group and private water supplies, so there is a split.

In terms of how we have made enforcements against local authorities, the local authorities must inform us immediately of any infringements of the water quality standards. We will then decide, on the basis of what they tell us, what enforcement action to take. In the main, such enforcement action takes the form of a direction. We are empowered under the regulations to issue a direction to local authorities directing them to take action to restore the water to the proper quality. I will get the exact figure for the committee, but we have issued hundreds of directions in the past two years since the 2007 regulations were issued. We do not have power under those regulations to prosecute local authorities for breaching water quality standards but we have the power to prosecute for non-compliance with the directions we issue. In two cases that have gone through the courts we have prosecuted local authorities. First we issue a direction and then we must go back to see whether it was complied with. We give local authorities some time to comply and then return with a prosecution. To my knowledge, we have prosecuted Galway County Council and Clare County Council and there are likely to be other prosecutions in the pipeline. Let me stress that they are for non-compliance with directions issued by the EPA to restore or bring water to the proper standard.

For what breach was Galway County Council prosecuted?

Dr. Mary Kelly

For the non-installation of a chlorine monitor, contrary to our directions.

What sanctions or penalties are imposed?

Dr. Mary Kelly

It is up to the court.

In those two cases what happened?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I am not 100% sure. The case on the Ennis scheme is not yet decided. I will have to check what the penalty was in the other case, which has been decided.

Perhaps Dr. Kelly will come back to us with that information.

Dr. Mary Kelly

I will.

Ms Tallon mentioned the Corrib water supply in Galway, which supplies all of Galway city and almost half of the county, stretching from Oughterard to Oranmore to Clarinbridge and back to Athenry, Tuam and Headford. In other words, the Corrib is an essential major source of water supply for a population of approximately 150,000 in Galway city and county. Great concerns have been expressed recently about the quality of this water supply. Ms Tallon alluded to agriculture and often this is an issue. However, she missed the elephant in the room, which is that none of the towns and villages around the Corrib have sewerage facilities. Oughterard, a major town on the Corrib, has been looking for a sewerage scheme for 20 years. Untreated sewage has been making its way into the Corrib. I know contract documents are out now for it but it is a very slow process. Since I first became a member of Galway County Council, more years ago than I remember, I have been promoting the idea of a sewerage scheme for Oughterard and we still have no sewerage scheme there. Clonbur, Cornamona and all of the other small villages do not have adequate sewerage schemes. What steps are being taken to deal with the alleged pollution of the Corrib waters? Who is monitoring it and who is responsible for it? Have there been any sanctions for lack of progress in this regard?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

There is a range of EU and national legislation that is effective in terms of the management of water quality generally, that is, water in the environment and the drinking water supply. Most of the requirements are encompassed in the water framework directive. Over the past year, local authorities have been preparing river basin management plans under the water framework directive. There is a very comprehensive requirement for the management of water quality in the environment established in that directive. It requires river basin management plans to be adopted for river basin districts by the end of this year. We have defined the river basin districts and extensive work has been carried out to characterise them, to identify risk factors such as potential sources of pollution and to establish management plans for river basins.

The water framework directive sets objectives for water quality and good water status to be achieved progressively over various dates from 2015 to 2027 throughout the European Union. The river basin management plan is the focal point for the identification of threats, risks and mitigating actions to be identified in each river basin catchment. We expect local authorities in the preparation of their priority programmes for investment over the period 2010 to 2012 to take close account of the challenges for water quality identified in the work for the preparation of the river basin management plan and to give priority to schemes that are needed to protect water quality.

I appreciate that there is a considerable pent-up need for investment in water and waste water services in Galway. We have met local authority people from Galway on a number of occasions. At a broad level, there has been huge investment nationally in waste water treatment over the past decade. We have gone from approximately 25% compliance to more than 90% compliance with urban waste water treatment. However, I readily accept that much of our initial focus had to be on the very large areas of discharge; in other words a very big proportion of the water services investment in waste water treatment during this decade went to Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Mutton Island.

Approximately half a dozen very large schemes absorbed a significant amount of available funding over that period. There is a need to address issues in smaller towns and villages where there are threats and risks. I expect to see a number of those taken up and given due priority against the background of the river basin management plans in the programme for 2010 to 2012.

That is a long answer to a short question. Let us cut to the chase; what has been done to examine or monitor the deteriorating situation in the Corrib lakes? What action has been taken? Who has done any monitoring there? I receive reports of serious pollution from various parts of the Corrib, which is the major source of water supply for Galway city and half of the county. Will Ms Tallon specify what has been done?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

As I stated, the key input is all working towards the work necessary for the river basin management plan. That involved detailed characterisation studies of all water basins to look at the chemical and microbiological status of waters in each catchment. Perhaps the EPA can contribute to scientific assessments and the work with which it is familiar. However, all of the river basin catchments have been the subject of detailed characterisation studies to identify current quality status, risks and threats. There are other areas——

What is the timescale for the completion of the river basin management plans?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The end of this year is the timescale for completion of the river basin management plans.

Will they all be completed at that point?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

In most instances, draft plans have been issued through local authorities for consultation with stakeholders. Much of the characterisation work was done between 2006 and 2008. The water framework directive was adopted in 2000 and implemented into Irish law three years later. The characterisation work which led to the preparation of draft plans began after that and the plans are due for completion by the end of this year.

What responsibility does that place on local authorities in terms of adhering to plans? What are the penalties for failing to adhere to them?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Local authorities are the lead authorities. The plans are intended to be comprehensive. The EU had come to the conclusion that while a series of directives applied to the water environment, a comprehensive management plan was lacking.

I appreciate that.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

This is the composite plan. I would not like to create the impression that local authorities must take ownership of everything that could impact on the catchment. These plans were prepared in consultation with a range of stakeholders interested in good water quality.

That is fine in an ideal world but local authorities clearly are not giving the lead. If the EPA has had to issue hundreds of directions over the past two years as well as take legal action against several local authorities, clearly a problem exists. Ms Tallon appears to be staking a lot on the fact that the river basin management plans are in production. When they are complete, how can we be sure that local authorities will be required to adhere to them and what will be the penalties for continuing to ignore plans or directives?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

As far as the plans are concerned, as I said, local authorities will have a lead role in implementing them but they will be overseen by the EPA because that organisation has a supervisory role in the implementation of environmental quality standards.

What will the penalties be if they do not adhere to the plans?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

As the EPA has noted, prosecutions can be brought for non-compliance with a direction issued from the EPA. My Department's concerns regarding compliance with drinking water standards are primarily to ensure people have the quality of supply necessary for public health.

The problem is that is not happening and we are asking where is the accountability and what powers exist to ensure local authorities carry out their roles responsibly.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The EPA was given strengthened powers in the 2007 regulations.

I am not getting a specific answer. Ms Tallon keeps referring to the river basin investigations but she has not answered my question on the investigation of alleged pollution of the Corrib waters.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

In respect of the Corrib or any area, the river basin management exercise has to be broken down into two aspects. Detailed water characterisation studies have been carried out but the river basin management plan concerns source protection in the first instance. One element of source protection is investment in water services, especially sewage treatment. Source protection also encompasses good practice in agriculture and industrial compliance.

Specific questions are being asked. I do not know whether Dr. Kelly is in a position to respond specifically on the Corrib issue. How frequently is that monitored and how many directions have been issued to local authorities?

Dr. Mary Kelly

We have confused two issues: the drinking water regulations and the water framework directive. They are linked in that many surface waters contribute to drinking water. The drinking water regulations give the EPA powers of supervision over local authorities to ensure the quality of drinking water. We can give directions to local authorities on what they should do to raise or restore drinking water to good quality. While we cannot prosecute for the quality of drinking water, we can do so for non-compliance with the directive. There is somewhat of a gap between these elements.

The quality of surface and lake waters in Ireland is governed by a different directive and the regulations and powers involved differ. For 35 years the EPA and its predecessor, An Foras Forbartha, have monitored the quality of surface waters in Ireland, generally on a three-year rolling cycle to cover all river and lake waters. We have found that surface waters began to deteriorate from the 1970s but have begun to stabilise and improve in more recent times. The water framework directive, as Ms Tallon noted, repealed 18 directives on water and replaced them with a single framework. The EPA is a co-ordinating body for this directive and we continue to monitor lakes, rivers and estuaries for water quality under its parameters. In general, the quality of water in Irish rivers and lakes is good, although approximately 0.5% of surface water is seriously polluted. I do not have detailed information on this because I thought we would be discussing drinking water. We have identified polluted waters in what we have called a red dot project — they appear as red dots on our map — and have taken steps to determine and address the sources of pollution.

The water framework directive requires that all surface water is of good quality by 2015. As Ms Tallon has noted, a major exercise has taken place over the past several years to characterise rivers, lakes, groundwaters and estuaries to determine whether they meet the directive in terms of being good quality, at risk or probably at risk. There is a lot of technical jargon on the subject. We have identified all the rivers and lakes which are at risk and the next step is to identify the programme of measures that must be taken to restore waters to good quality by 2015. These programmes of measures involve proper implementation of the nitrates directive, including gap regulations, as well as compliance with the urban waste water treatment directive and other directives. The programmes of measures are wide ranging and, as Ms Tallon noted, are to be deployed by local authorities and others. There is a significant range of stakeholders, including the EPA, involved in restoring waters to good quality by 2015. The term "good quality" sounds colloquial but there is a technical meaning to it. From our perspective in the EPA, the programmes of measures are in place, although they are not all being implemented as well as they should be. We cannot prosecute under the water framework directive for not meeting the good quality standard but we have had another power to license wastewater treatment plants, for example, in the past few years. As a result, we are taking into account the water framework directive, as well as the urban wastewater treatment directive. We ensure in issuing licences — approximately 50 or 60 have been issued at this stage — that the combined approach complies with the terms of both directives. In the period up to 2015 this should ensure the majority of waters will be restored to good quality, although I am not sure they will all be. It relies on the implementation of quite a number of directives but where we have powers of enforcement, we will use them.

What is the EPA's role in monitoring the quality of drinking water in Galway? How often does Galway County Council have to report on standards and the testing of water?

Dr. Mary Kelly

It must report to us on an annual basis but tests are different, with some being done every week and others, every month. The tests in respect of the 48 parameters are varied in their timescales. Although we do not receive reports from the county council that often, the new regulations require that if any of the 48 parameters is exceeded, it must inform us. It must report by exception; it must report when there is no compliance. When it reports to us, it triggers a series of actions, the first being us making contact with it to see what it is doing about returning to compliance. If we are satisfied with these efforts, we might leave the matter at that but if we are not satisfied, we will move a little further which may culminate in a direction to take action by a certain date. If the council does not comply with this, we can prosecute. We find that as local authorities report to us on non-compliance or exceptions, in general contact by us is enough to ensure a return to compliance. The matter does not always appear in the public domain but there is work being done.

Is Dr. Kelly in a position to tell us how many reports on exceptions have been reported by Galway County Council?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I will have to look up the number but can supply it to the committee. It is something we know but I cannot relay it off the top of my head.

Will Dr. Kelly indicate approximately how many directions have been issued?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I will check the figure in order to be accurate and revert to the committee on the matter.

My questions are being answered in a general manner rather than specifically. I thank the Vice Chairman for the assistance in obtaining the answers I seek. As I am a patient person, I will try once again. Dr. Kelly has said the Department issues a directive to local authorities to monitor and report but what have the councils in Galway city or county reported on the current condition of the Corrib?

Dr. Mary Kelly

Is the Deputy referring to surface or drinking water?

I am talking about the source of drinking water which people fear is being polluted. What monitoring has been done or what reports have been returned on that matter?

Dr. Kelly is undertaking to provide that information. Can she do so today?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I am sure I could.

I will wait for that information.

Perhaps we could wrap up on this issue, as the Deputy's time is almost up.

I have one last question. When does the Department expect local authorities to be in compliance with all 48 parameters specified in the 2007 drinking water regulations? A date was mentioned — the Department hopes they will all be meeting quality standards by 2016. It seems extraordinary that we have to wait seven years and even that is only a goal to meet the required quality standards. What will happen to people in the meantime?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

To return to the Deputy's previous question on the monitoring of drinking water in Galway, in the most recent report to the EPA Galway County Council undertook just under 24,400 tests to assess drinking water quality in the county in 2007.

What was the result of those tests?

That is the outcome for which we are waiting.

What penalties were imposed for breaches of the regulations? If the local authority allows wastewater and sewage from towns and villages to enter the river or lake, is it the case that it is the greatest polluter of the Corrib? I will wait for the information but nobody has told me what penalties are imposed, if any, on local authorities which are polluters. I am talking about the Galway issue also.

What is the position on boil water notices? We have had many such notices in Galway in the past few years. What is the position in 2009?

Do the witnesses have information on the penalties imposed for failure to follow directions given by the EPA?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I have the information. In our report which we published in March or April this year it is indicated that we prosecuted Galway County Council for failing to comply with a direction. It was directed to install a chlorine monitor and alarm no later than 31 October 2007.

Where did that happen?

Dr. Mary Kelly

In Craughwell.

Craughwell is not supplied from the Corrib. That is a different scheme but Dr. Kelly should proceed.

Dr. Mary Kelly

It may be. We are still confusing drinking water supply and enforcement in respect of surface water. I appreciate fully that the Corrib is the source of supply but it is at the tap where the quality of drinking water is tested. If the supply is in compliance, the treatment process is working.

The water comes from the tap but the source is the Corrib.

Dr. Mary Kelly

Yes. Local authorities are carrying out tests and sending the results to us. In the past year we have not needed to issue any other directions to Galway County Council.

I request that the EPA issue a directive to the county council to examine and report on the quality of water in the Corrib catchment area.

Dr. Mary Kelly

I am not certain we have the power to do that under——

Who has the authority to do so?

Dr. Mary Kelly

The regulations we are enforcing relate to the quality of drinking water from the tap. I do not mean to dismiss the Corrib as a source. One of the actions we have taken has led us to adopt the World Health Organization water management plan since the regulations were introduced. That plan requires safety and security; safety ensures the quality of the water which means it is safe to drink and there must be compliance with the 48 parameters. Security concerns an examination of the river or lake and its catchment area.

What is happening on security in Galway?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I will check and revert to the Deputy.

That is the question I am being asked by my constituents and other interested people. Who is monitoring the situation in the Corrib with regard to possible pollution of the water source? I cannot give them an answer and I still cannot give them one after today, but if the witnesses will convey an answer to me——

Dr. Mary Kelly

If the Deputy will allow me, I will come back to him on that issue.

Is Dr. Kelly undertaking to do that today?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I do not know if I can provide an answer on the Corrib today, but I will tell members how many directions we have issued and how many prosecutions——

Is Dr. Kelly in a position to do that now or does she need some time?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I am not in a position to tell Deputies the number of directions issued——

That is fine.

Dr. Mary Kelly

——but I can tell them that we prosecuted Galway County Council and Clare County Council over the Ennis supply. Galway County Council pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the direction and was fined €4,000, along with costs of €5,500 to the EPA.

Was that for Craughwell?

Dr. Mary Kelly

Yes. In the case of Clare County Council, the District Court moved the case up to the next court, so it has not yet been determined.

Is Dr. Kelly in a position to give members information on the number of directions given to Galway County Council?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I will get that information for the committee today.

That is fine. We will give you some more time.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

With regard to the characterisation studies and the data for the river basin management plans, I confirm that all those plans are available on the Internet and the data are accessible. Similarly, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has required all local authorities to publish their drinking water monitoring results on a timely basis so consumers are not waiting to see the EPA's report, which inevitably involves a time lag in collecting and compiling the data. That is happening. All local authorities have been asked to——

Are they all complying with that?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

——publish data on their own websites.

Are they actually doing that?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I understand they are, although the requirement was established fairly recently.

Deputy McCormack also asked about boil water notices. There are 12 boil water notices for e.coli on public supplies at the moment.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

A significant number of the supplies involved are in Cork, although one is in Waterford and the largest is in Waterville. The total population involved is about 2,000.

Can Ms Tallon run down through the list?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I do not think I have a complete list, but I understand a number of the notices are in Cork and one of them is in Waterville in County Kerry.

Perhaps Ms Tallon would provide these for the committee.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The EPA may have the list.

Dr. Mary Kelly

I do not have the list but I can give some of the information. We will need to have a more detailed conversation for the benefit of Deputy McCormack. In the report entitled The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland: A Report for the Years 2007-08 — that is, monitoring for 2007 and enforcement for 2008, especially for Galway County Council — we provide very detailed data, and I apologise for not having it off the top of my head. The report states:

The EPA received 15 notifications of the failure to meet the parametric value from Galway County Council in the period March 2007 to September 2008. The notifications were due to the failure to meet the E. coli (4), coliform bacteria (1), Cryptosporidium (2), Clostridium perfringens (1), trihalomethanes (4) and lead (3) parametric values.

They are the 15 notifications we received in that period. The report continues: "During this period 6 boil water notices or restrictions of use were put in place due to Cryptosporidium.” This was around the time of the crisis. It goes on to state:

Arising from these notifications 5 Directions were issued by the EPA to Galway County Council which required the preparation of action programmes, installation of chlorine monitors as well as other specific measures to improve treatment. Galway County Council was prosecuted by the EPA in April 2008 for failure to comply with a Direction in respect of the Craughwell supply.

It must have complied with the other directions or we would have prosecuted it for non-compliance. We could probably have a more detailed conversation about the Galway water supply if the Deputy wishes.

Will Dr. Kelly let me know that in writing?

Dr. Mary Kelly

Yes. It is published in our report and I can send the Deputy a copy.

I thank Dr. Kelly for that information.

I thank her for her indulgence.

I welcome the witnesses to the committee. I have some questions with regard to water but as we have not yet touched on this, I will ask about carbon credits instead. When we buy carbon credits or when a decision is made about what we need or do not need, who collates that information and holds it? Ms Tallon mentioned the World Bank in her presentation this morning. Does it monitor all this? If we are buying credits, do we go through the World Bank or an offshoot? Does it decide based on information? Information must be supplied to somebody in order that they know the needs of different countries with regard to the purchasing of credits. Who monitors or collates all that information?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

With regard to the projects in which we invest, they are monitored, managed and financed by the World Bank or by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Our own approach to purchase is based on the framework set in the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012, as I described. It is a balance of three elements of emissions reduction: domestic action in a range of sectors, participation in emissions trading by the 109 installations covered by the national allocation plan, and use of the Kyoto flexible mechanisms. The Government determines the overall proportions across the emissions reduction requirements and, within that, the Department, the Government and the EPA monitor and report regularly on performance and progress.

To whom do they report?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Publicly. They report to Government and the European Commission.

The emissions we were allowed for the period 2008 to 2012 were 62.8 million units per year. That is the figure that was worked out. I understand the Comptroller and Auditor General has a role in that he carries out an audit of what is happening in the country, and I assume his counterparts in other countries are doing something similar. We can be happy enough about the due diligence of the Comptroller and Auditor General in this country, but how can we be sure other countries are acting properly or appropriately? Perhaps they are trying to get away with whatever they can. How do we know other countries are complying with the restrictions? Does somebody come in from outside to monitor those countries or even Ireland?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

This is tightly controlled by both the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in terms of the funds they manage. Overall, the approach to implementation of and compliance with the Kyoto Protocol is tightly monitored and managed at UN level. There are a number of flexible mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol for compliance purposes. One can buy credits, for example, from investment in activity in developing countries through a mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol called the clean development mechanism which is managed at UN level. An executive board has been established to monitor and assess each project put forward for the accounting of emissions reductions to be achieved by the project. First, the projects undergo due diligence through the investment mechanism, namely, by the World Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. When the projects are vetted and agreed at bank level, they must then go forward to the executive board of the CDN mechanism. That executive board has looked in detail at all the projects. About half of them have been referred back to the banks or the proposers for a variety of reasons. There is very tight control at UN level in terms of determining the eligibility of projects to go forward and the capacity of those projects to generate the emissions reductions identified for them.

We submitted a figure of €270 million which was what we expected it would cost us over a period to purchase carbon credits. Obviously in the tightened financial situation in this country at present we need to ensure we do not spend anything like that sum and that we reduce our emissions as much as possible. I realise we are not going to spend that sum of money because of the economic downturn, but if there were no downturn, perhaps we would spend it. What can we do to avoid this in the future? Does the problem not lie in the public sector rather than the private sector? Is that not where these emissions are being generated? I think the terms used are trading and non-trading.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

As I said, the €270 million designated by Government in the national development plan was based on purchases at an average price of €15 per credit. One is inevitably dependent on the price of this commodity on world markets. In the credits we committed to or bought through the banks, our prices have ranged in some instances from €5 per credit to about €12 to €13 per credit. However, the market is volatile enough and the expectation is that with tighter, more stringent obligations post-Kyoto, the price of carbon credits will increase. At one level, the degree of investment which has been undertaken on behalf of the State up to now has been done at a time when prices were relatively low and competitive.

Of course, it is true that action must be taken and not only by the Government's purchase of credits. These credits and the purchasing programme must be supplementary to domestic action. The climate change strategy is based on a combination of actions across domestic emissions reductions, participation by installations in emissions trading and the purchase of credits. Given the economic downturn and the revised projections, we and the EPA will be working on further projections for the end of this year. It may well be the case that no further purchasing is required and we have instructed the NTMA to stop purchasing.

Is it anticipated that as we move into the future there might be a move to emissions trading at an individual level in Ireland, within the EU or even beyond to ensure personal responsibility and that the user will pay for whatever excess emissions are generated? Has any thought been given to that or are there any plans along that line? Perhaps the EPA might be aware of it.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

There have been suggestions and studies along those lines. Clearly, this is an evolving area for policy development given that the Kyoto Protocol will be succeeded by more stringent requirements. It is important that we look at all potential options for the future and that will be the subject of detailed consideration by Government. The EPA may be able to comment in terms of the potential value of cap and trade systems at individual level as opposed to installation or national level.

Dr. Ken Macken

I think the concept of personal level cap and trade has been published and commented upon. Part of the difficulty is that one has to look at the cost of running a scheme. If one starts trying to monitor the emissions of individual persons, the costing becomes disproportionate in many ways. One tries to look for alternative instruments that might be less costly to administer to achieve the same end. Emissions trading works well on big industrial emitters because the cost of producing the data is small compared with the value of their emissions. Emissions trading does not work well for small companies, and after 2014, some of the smaller companies will be allowed leave the emissions trading scheme because they are facing disproportionate costs on monitoring reporting compared with the level of their emissions. Similarly, at personal level there would be very disproportionate costs and therefore governments are likely to use alternative measures in trying to achieve the same result in different ways.

It is basically not cost effective to do this.

Dr. Ken Macken

Yes, it is too big an overhead for the small level of reduction one might get.

Is that the view in other countries too?

Dr. Ken Macken

That is a generally accepted view and therefore at present there are not in existence, anywhere I know of in the world, personal level cap and trade systems because the overhead cost would be significant.

Have we any idea what will be required in this area after 2012? How well prepared are we to meet it?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

At this stage we are very involved in the negotiations for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol which are scheduled to be concluded in Copenhagen later this year. The EU has already adopted its position for the Copenhagen negotiations, namely, to achieve a 20% reduction on emissions by 2020 against the 2005 baseline. Within EU burden-sharing we will have a 20% reduction target for 2020 so that is a very significant increase in national ambition.

Is it the feeling we will be able to meet that?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The feeling is that this will be an intensive target to meet but there is very active engagement across sectors through, for example, the sustainable transport and travel plan, the national energy efficiency plan and the bioenergy action plan. A range of actions are already in place that are likely to deliver emissions reductions at national level on a progressive basis. Intensive work has been done in my Department on building standards and efficiency within the residential sector. However, it would be foolish not to recognise that this target is very ambitious. Equally, we would express the view quite strongly that the scientific evidence on climate change is such that this level of ambition is necessary.

I will return if I may to the topic of drinking water. Ms Tallon stated in her presentation that: "Compliance with microbiological parameters has improved steadily for public water supplies from 97.7% in 2003 to 99.3% in 2007." The service indicators in the local authorities report for 2007 state there has only been a slight change to the percentage of drinking water analysis results on compliance with statutory requirements for public schemes to 97.94% in 2007. Those figures for 2007 are different. Ms Tallon states 99.3%; the service indicators for the local authorities state 97.94%.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

It is a one point percentage in difference. As I understand it——

No, it is a 1.5% difference.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

As I understand it, the figure in the local authority service indicators is taken from EPA reporting. My figure is also taken from EPA reporting. I apologise if I have misled the Deputy. I will check the figures but they are both based on EPA reporting.

Will Ms Tallon check that figure, please? She also stated this morning that almost 240,000 tests on drinking water were carried out in 2007. How many people are involved in carrying out these tests and where are they based? Are samples sent into a central point, or do people go out to do this testing?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

People go out to collect the samples in each case. Local authorities would have staffing of the order of more than 3,000 people working in the water services area at national level. Local authorities are responsible for taking the samples. They are analysed and monitored in a range of laboratories nationally. The EPA has a series of regional laboratories and several local authorities have their own water testing laboratories. The samples are analysed under accredited laboratory conditions either at local authority level directly or on an agency basis through the regional laboratory system of the EPA. In a very small number of cases samples have had to be sent abroad where there are specialised tests involved in respect of particular parameters that require monitoring on a very infrequent basis. By and large the analysis is carried out at national level.

Where are the people that carry out that task based? Are they in Dublin?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

No, not necessarily. The regional laboratories are based in Cork, Monaghan, Kilkenny and Castlebar. Several local authorities have their own water testing laboratories. In recent times the EPA has examined the coverage of laboratory facilities and the agency may be able to comment in more specific terms.

Dr. Mary Kelly

The EPA undertakes the testing for local authorities for 32% of water samples. As the Secretary General stated, this takes place in Cork, Kilkenny, Monaghan and Castlebar. We actually do the testing on behalf of the local authorities. In the other local authority areas they carry out the testing locally. In some cases, such as Dublin, the authority may provide a central service for the purposes of economies of scale because it has a large and well-staffed laboratory. As far as I recall, it supplies a service to a number of adjoining counties. Similar arrangements hold throughout the country such that every local authority need not have a laboratory in its area. Along with the Department we are considering the consolidation to regional laboratories of water testing for catchments and for drinking waters.

I refer back to the service indicators for local authorities for 2007. Table E21 indicates the percentage of drinking water analysis results in compliance with statutory requirements for public schemes. My county and Waterford County Council is the worst with only 95% compliance. That means almost 5% of the public supply in Waterford does not meet statutory requirements. Is there a particular issue there or are a number of schemes subject to remedial works? What is the reason for this? One of the boil notices referred to was for Waterford. Can the delegation explain where that was or is?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

First, I shall clarify the difference in the figure for compliance. The drinking water compliance figure given in the table referring to service indicators, table E21, is a figure for compliance with all parameters whereas the figure I had given earlier in my opening statement was the figure for compliance with microbiological parameters. That makes for the distinction. The figure in the service indicators covers chemical and microbiological parameters. That accounts for the distinction.

In terms of compliance with drinking water quality standards in Waterford, the profile of supply in Waterford is such that there are many small supplies within Waterford county. There are more than 100 separate water supplies. Obviously, this has an overhead in terms of management and operation. There are 26 public supplies in the Waterford County Council area on the remedial action list at present.

Deputy Bernard Allen resumed the Chair.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Twenty-six were on the remedial action list in 2008.

That is 26 out of how many?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Out of 104.

That is very high. It is exactly one quarter.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

It does not necessarily denote poor water quality. The remedial action list is intended to be a list that designates schemes which may be at risk for a variety of reasons, including risks within the catchment area. However, it would not necessarily denote that all such supplies had poor quality drinking water. It may well be the case, as we have found in a number of instances, that supplies require chlorine or turbidity monitors rather than extensive investment. The EPA may be in a position to comment more specifically on the particular schemes on the list.

Dr. Mary Kelly

My understanding of the position for Waterford County Council is that there are 104 public water schemes. They are generally very small and it is very unusual to have that many small schemes serving a population of approximately 45,000. If the Deputy examines our report he will see there are 13 or 14 water schemes in other areas of a similar size. The management and maintenance of some of the schemes is not up to scratch. That is simply the truth of it. There are 26 schemes on the remedial action list which means, as the Secretary General indicated, they are at risk of non-compliance. It could mean either the security or the safety. In other words, as I explained to Deputy McCormack, we require local authorities to look up at the source and ensure it is secure and safe such that it will produce safe drinking water.

The are 26 schemes on the remedial action list requiring various things. I do not have details here of what they need but we issued directions to Waterford County Council to install chlorine alarms in 13 of those supplies. This indicates that disinfection may be taking place but that it is not monitored. In other words, if the chlorine runs out, no one is aware of it. We have required all schemes to put chlorine monitors in place at least.

Does the EPA monitor that on an ongoing basis?

Dr. Mary Kelly

Yes. It must revert to us on a quarterly basis. Any scheme that gets onto the remedial action list is checked out quarterly.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

We also monitor the schemes quite closely because we designated specific funding of €16 million last year for the purposes of investment in small-scale works to deliver the necessary improvements of schemes on the remedial action list. In the case of Waterford, several of those have been completed. As the director general of the EPA said, in several instances they were for enhanced disinfection. A variety of schemes such as those in Ardmore, Graiguenageeha, Kilnafrehan, Rathgormack and Ticknock have had enhanced disinfection provided at this point.

Ms Tallon mentioned one place in Waterford which has a boil notice in force. Does she know where that is?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

There are none in Waterford. It is in Waterville in Kerry.

At some stage in the future, houses around the country will be metered and will pay for their water supply or pay if they use above a certain level of water. Perhaps we will try to recoup the economic cost of supplying the water, I do not know. However, there has been a huge problem for many years in that it has been estimated that one third of all water which goes into the network is being lost, for various reasons. There have been efforts to upgrade pipes in different towns and cities throughout the country, but still in the order of one third of water is being lost. If one third of this resource was not being lost, the water programme would not cost as much. What is being done to try and prevent that from happening in the future?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

There is an issue for the Department regarding the level of water not accounted for in the water supply system. It is and has been a significant problem for some time. The loss of water is from water mains and reservoirs. There are losses in the distribution network. There may be losses in user supply systems within houses. Water used for a variety of operational purposes is not accounted for, so it is not necessarily all leakage. For example, water used for firefighting purposes is not accounted for, because it does not go to the consumer. Water used for flushing out systems after incidents or to clean out turbidity is also covered as water that is not accounted for.

The range of water that is not accounted for is quite significant. It ranges from 18% in some authorities to as high as some 60% in some areas. We have a fund——

Is it 60% of the water?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Yes, in some areas. We have had an investment fund of some €290 million for several years for water conservation purposes, including for mains rehabilitation. Of that, €115 million has been drawn down and there have been significant programmes of rehabilitation in several areas. For example, the Dublin area has invested heavily and has reduced water leakage quite considerably as a result. As part of the prioritisation exercise for the water services investment programme, we have made it clear that any investment for the future in water services has to be predicated on availability and the existence of a water conservation programme within a local authority area, and our first line of defence is now the state of play in terms of water conservation.

Dublin was mentioned, where leakage has been reduced considerably because there has been large investment there. Obviously it is up to the local authorities in Dublin to maintain what they have. Is it envisaged that if leakage levels start rising again some sort of penalty will be imposed to force the local authority to comply and make sure that water is saved? Are there any plans in that regard?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

There are no plans that I am aware of at the current time, but the question of making new investment in water supply or additional water supply capacity will be examined very critically in terms of performance on water conservation. In that sense, we want to drive conservation more strongly. Local authorities would and should recognise that water leakage is self-penalising because they have to pay for the treatment of the water, so leakage levels are a cost in the system which simply cannot be afforded.

Does the Department have a target figure it would like to reach for water that is not accounted for?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Best practice at international level suggests a level of water not accounted for somewhere in the high 20% range. Water not accounted for, which may include leakage, may also include water used for a variety of operational reasons. It can be the case that to invest in leakage reduction below that level is more costly than the provision of new capacity. We have many thousands of kilometres — I understand the figure is more than 40,000 — in the water distribution network and it is an intensive task to monitor it, maintain it and find leaks in a distribution network of that scale.

Does the Department have any time scale for when we will reach the high 20% level nationally?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

That is something on which we are working very intensively. We will drive it more strongly over the coming three years as part of the rationale for prioritising investment in any additional new capacity.

I have several questions on water services. A huge amount of money, more than €1 billion, was spent in the five years up to 2007. What is the current budget for water services?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The budget this year is €500 million.

Is that just for this year?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

For 2009.

What was spent last year?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Approximately the same amount was spent last year. The figure may have been €497 million.

Does the Department have a strategy to deal with the issues which currently arise regarding leakage, renewal of piping and tackling the quality of the water sources? Is the Department working to a plan or does it work on a year to year basis? Is Ms Tallon saying our water services will require an investment of X amount of money over the next three years and then they will be in a fairly good shape? What is the Department's approach to the issue?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

In terms of the investment of €500 million we have this year, it is the third year of the rolling programme we have in place. A total of €100 million of that investment is in rural water supply, very much dedicated towards compliance with the drinking water judgment of 2002, which I identified earlier, and the work that is necessary in that regard. The balance of €400 million is distributed on water and waste water treatment schemes and on conservation.

That is €500 million last year, this year, and did Ms Tallon say a third year?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

No. We have a rolling three-year programme on investment which is underpinned by the prioritisation exercise I described earlier carried out at local authority level. It is also informed by water quality monitoring and reporting by the EPA.

Does Ms Tallon envisage a time when our water services will be up to standard and acceptable? What scale of investment is necessary to achieve that?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

We did a detailed exercise on the scale of investment required in the national development plan and an investment was defined. At a time of economic downturn we must look critically at projections for development even in the 2007-09 programme. That is why we emphasise the prioritisation exercise and the criteria we have established for local authorities for 2010-12.

I appreciate that point but I am asking Ms Tallon to outline the scale of investment required to bring the water services up to an acceptable standard.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The scale of investment that was identified in the national development plan was €4.7 billion. That included requirements to reach acceptable quality and quality compliance in all water supplies and it included provision for capacity requirements as identified in the development context of the national development plan.

How much of that €4.7 billion does the Department expect to raise from development levies or is it separately funded?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

That figure was based on a breakdown of €3.6 billion of Exchequer funding and the balance from development contributions.

That would be €1.1 billion from development contributions. Where does the Department stand now? Has it reached that target or what is the outstanding amount owed by developers?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I am not sure that I have the figures on development contributions. As things stand the schemes of development contributions are adopted at local authority level and the breakdown of development contributions between different types of investment is determined at local level. For development contribution schemes set at local authority level, approximately 40% of contributions raised are attributed to water service investments, approximately 45% to roads investments and the balance to community, recreation, etc.

What is the Department's current estimate of the amount of outstanding levies owed to the local authorities?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I do not have an estimate of the outstanding levies owed to local authorities at the moment.

Can the Secretary General provide that level of detail?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I will supply the Deputy with the most up-to-date information that I have which is probably the information from local authorities. I do not think the 2008 audits are complete. I imagine the 2007 figures are the most complete——

The Dublin local authorities have up-to-date figures. They may not be audited but they have a good estimate of the amount owed to them and I suspect that the same applies to other local authorities. Surely they know what is owed to them.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Yes, I would expect that they do.

Given what has happened to the economy, I would have thought that kind of information would be available in the Department and that there would be some kind of strategy for dealing with that because there is a considerable shortfall.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

There is a reduction in income from development contributions over——

I am not talking about that. I am talking about development contributions that are owed and have not been paid and what action the Department intends to take.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

We are aware overall that there are debtors. At the end of 2007 the balance on development contributions was approximately €1.5 billion. That included debt and cash for local authorities. The local authorities are following up on the development levy debt. Several authorities have referred cases to their legal departments for appropriate action to recover the debts.

Dublin City Council has inspected over 200 developments since the start of the year to assess whether any development contributions are due and it has issued 92 warning letters and 64 enforcement notices. There have been ten referrals to the District Court in the Dublin area. We have similar information for other authorities.

Will the Secretary General provide that information for each authority?

What information does the EPA have for the number of prosecutions of individuals and companies for polluting water supplies?

Dr. Mary Kelly

I am not sure that I can provide that information today but I will give it to the Deputy later. We are about to issue a focus on enforcement report which should be published in the next few weeks. It considers all the enforcement actions that local authorities have taken against polluters and that the EPA has taken. It is difficult to give a specific answer because one can take action against people for water pollution under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, the EPA Act or the Waste Management Act. I will supply the Deputy with the information I have from the draft report on prosecutions by each local authority and the EPA in the past year.

Is the EPA satisfied that its powers are sufficiently strong to deal with the problem of polluters?

Dr. Mary Kelly

Yes, they are, by and large. Our main emphasis is on achieving compliance and I appreciate that prosecution figures can look quite low. We can take a summary prosecution to the District Court. If we want to take a prosecution on indictment we must go through the Director of Public Prosecutions. That requires a much higher level of proof so we have tended to bring prosecutions at District Court level because we have found that most companies do not want to appear in the District Court or any other court and will generally remediate or do whatever is necessary before appearing in court. In most cases they plead guilty to the offence and correct it so we do not feel the need to go any further, unless there has been gross pollution in which case we would. In recent years we have taken prosecutions in the higher courts and we have had some success. We will continue to do so but our main objective is to achieve compliance and if we can do that by sending a notice of non-compliance to the company, that may suffice. It may be a requirement then to issue a directive to a local authority but it will probably comply at that stage. If it does not, we will take it further. For us, enforcement is not just about prosecution, it is a chain of different actions we can take. The lower down the chain we achieve compliance, the better.

I appreciate that — but is the scale of fines satisfactory?

Dr. Mary Kelly

That is a different question. We have no control over the scale of fines. If we take a summary prosecution, there is a limit of €5,000 that can be imposed by a District Court judge. If we feel it is any bigger an offence that needs to go higher, or the District Court can send it to a higher court. We have no control over the fines that can be imposed.

During the year we produced a research report on other forms of sanction. We compared other forms of administrative sanction, such as on the spot fines and things we could administer, with sanctions in several other countries, including the UK and Australia. We found there are 11 administrative sanctions in use in these countries and most of them are in use in Ireland already. By and large, our enforcement powers are strong. We are not always satisfied that we achieve a high enough fine, particularly from a public perception point of view, in the District Court.

So the level of fine is not commensurate with the cost of remediating the situation?

Dr. Mary Kelly

That could be the perception. It is up to a judge to determine the level of a fine.

I appreciate that but the EPA has the information about how the scale of the fine relates to the cost of remediating the damage done.

Dr. Mary Kelly

In most of the cases we prosecute in the District Court, there would not be a huge amount of damage. If we determined significant damage to the environment worth perhaps €100,000, we would take the case via the DPP on indictment to the Circuit Court or the High Court. There would then be a higher fine. We have achieved some high fines. There was a case in Clare where a fine of €120,000 was imposed and we have achieved higher fines than that. We make a judgment based on the amount of damage.

Many of the prosecutions we take against companies in particular are on the basis of non-compliance with a condition in the licence. That might not have resulted generally in environmental damage but it might result in such damage in future. We are trying to prevent the damage happening. There are not many cases involving huge environmental damage where a huge fine would be necessary. The District Courts hand down fines of up to €5,000. In some cases we do not think that is commensurate with the gravity of the offence that has been committed because we consider it to be a grave offence not to have systems in place to protect the environment. Environmental damage, however, does not need to have taken place.

Information on the outcome of the prosecutions would be interesting to the committee.

On the climate change strategy, the current system of buying carbon credits could be described as buying the right to pollute. There is a problem with that mindset. The concentration in recent times has been on the cost of those credits but how is the climate change strategy monitored? In terms of the target of a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, what is the performance to date since 2005?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Our target for 2012 is to limit our emissions to 13% above the 1990 baseline.

What about the 2020 target?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

The 2020 target will come into effect on the basis of an agreement in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

Are we not required to achieve a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

We will be required to achieve a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020. If there is a global agreement in Copenhagen, the EU has indicated it will increase its ambition from a 20% to a 30% reduction.

What is our performance like?

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Our final position in terms of 2020 cannot be judged to be definitive at this stage.

I accept it could be more ambitious but I am asking about the performance to date.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Performance to date has been monitored on an annual basis. Our emissions grew in the period 1990 to 2004 by 24%. Emissions are monitored on an annual basis and reported on by the EPA. There is a time lag in gathering the necessary data from a range of sectors, energy data in particular, through Sustainable Energy Ireland. EPA has figures for the end performance on each year up to the end of 2007. The 2008 figures are due to be compiled by the end of this year.

Deputy Brendan Kenneally took the Chair.

Perhaps we should start with the figures for 2005.

Dr. Ken Macken

I do not have specific figures to hand except for 2007. In 2007, our official emission was 69.2 million tonnes. Since 2001, our emissions have moved up and down each year but they have not changed dramatically since that time. We have published those figures in our inventory reports and they are available on our website. We will ensure the committee gets detailed figures.

As a lay person, 69.2 million tonnes does not mean anything to me. I am concerned about the target we have to reduce our emissions by 20%, if not more, by 2020.

In chapter 19, figure 72 is a graph that would give some idea about how things are going.

Dr. Ken Macken

Figure 72 is a graph of the annual emissions for Ireland for each of the years since 1990. The Deputy is asking how that will project forward in terms of the 2020 target.

Not even that, I want to know what our performance has been like since 2005 when the target was set.

Dr. Ken Macken

The performance is as indicated on the graph. Those are Ireland's national emissions. The 2020 target is the EU's proposed target under the climate change package where it has indicated that for the non-trading sector, Ireland will have a target based on our 2005 emissions, based on a reduction on those emissions of 20%. We have the data to show how that will look. The projections that we published in March, that are available on the EPA website, indicated that at current trends we hoped to have a gap by 2020 of around 7 million tonnes over-target. That would be without the full effect of what, since then, has been an even further deepening economic dip and without taking account of further measures we might take in the interim between now and 2020.

Without having the figures it seems to me that we have not reduced our emissions between 2005 and 2007.

Dr. Ken Macken

The graph shows that we have not. However, we expect the emissions to come down during the 2008-2012 period. Part of the climate change strategy measures introduced since the first climate change strategy and since the revised climate change strategy and the measures identified in energy White Papers and so on take a little while to produce results. The results from those measures are beginning to be fed in now. In spring this year we indicated that with the current scenario we were lucky to be only an average of 1.6 million tonnes per annum above our Kyoto target of 62.8 million tonnes — 1.6 million tonnes above that takes us to 64.4 million tonnes. While in 2007 we had reached 69.2 million tonnes, for the period 2008-12 we expect an average of 64.4 million tonnes. Since then the economy has further dipped so we are coming much closer to achieving, by emissions alone, our Kyoto target for the 2008-12 period. The measures taken under the climate change strategy are coming into play and are showing the reductions. They have not shown the reductions in those years that have been reported on historically to 2007 because the measures were only being identified and beginning to be implemented in that period. We expect a significant reduction in emissions in the years 2008-2012.

That is fine. I was looking for figures to support that trend.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

Specific figures are identified and published in forward projections. We have done much work in terms of building regulations within the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The 2008 building regulations were estimated——

I appreciate that. It is the outcome I am interested in.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

I understand that but the figures for the effect of the building regulations, as they carry through, 47,000 kilotonnes of emissions reduction in 2010 will have increased to 669,000 kilotonnes by 2020.

Let us hope that is the case.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

That is one example.

I am looking for figures on outcomes that have been established to date but not targets for the future.

Ms Geraldine Tallon

They are quite difficult to compare because in the Kyoto period, one is talking about 13% above a 1990 baseline and in the Copenhagen period — if one can call it that — one is talking about a 20% reduction on a 2005 baseline. It is very difficult to compare what the Kyoto Protocol compliance will achieve with what will be necessary for the future.

I am not talking about the future but what has happened from 2005 up to the present time. If figures are not available for each of those years I would be grateful if they could be provided.

Dr. Mary Kelly

We have published quite an amount because it is our responsibility to compile the inventories and send them to the EU and the UN on behalf of the country. The figures, as the Deputy can see, refer to the actual emissions. They are complicated by the fact that there are different mechanisms for meeting that 13% reduction in Kyoto and different mechanisms again for meeting the 20% reduction in the Copenhagen period. They are the actual emissions figures. We will forward the projection figures which we produce on an annual basis. Projections come with the usual riders on them that none of us knows the future. We will forward the last couple of projections that we have and the Deputy will see a discussion on them about the measures. In those, we have identified three scenarios: with measures, with additional measures and I cannot remember what the third is called. "With measures" means measures that are actually in place — I think this is what the Deputy is getting at — and active at the moment. The second is "with additional measures", that is, measures that are identified and which are in the pipeline but not deployed yet. It is a complicated area but if one looks at it under those three scenarios one will see what we are predicting to happen. That might answer the Deputy's question.

Dr. Mary Kelly

We will undertake to send that information to the Deputy.

The difficulty is measuring how successful we have been in reducing emissions through positive measures as a result of the slowing down of the economy.

Dr. Mary Kelly

Yes. The further complication is that while ostensibly it is a 13% reduction in emissions, there is more than one way of meeting it. For example, emissions trading has to be factored in and the purchases that we made, which were assessed by the Comptroller and Auditor General. It is not just a matter of physically reducing emissions, we can also purchase.

It is the physical reduction that I am particularly interested in.

Dr. Mary Kelly

The Deputy will see it on that graph.

I hope we are not buying our way out of it.

I thank the Deputy. I invite Mr. Buckley to make some concluding remarks.

Mr. John Buckley

We have had a good discussion. I have nothing to add to my opening remarks.

Is it agreed that the committee notes special report No. 65 of the Comptroller and Auditor General on water services and disposes of chapter 19, investments in carbon credits, of the 2008 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General? Agreed.

I thank the witnesses who appeared before the committee from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the EPA and the Department of Finance.

The witnesses withdrew.

If there is no other business we will agree an agenda for the next meeting, namely, the abuse of limited liability. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The committee adjourned at 12.50 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Thursday, 22 October 2009.