In asking for a Second Reading for this Bill I am very glad to have the opportunity of pointing out to the Minister in particular and to the Government in general the need for action now in regard to pollution. I emphasise the word "now". The facts I hope to bring to the notice of the Minister and his Government during the course of this debate will, I think, show beyond yea or nay that the situation in regard to pollution is rapidly deteriorating. There is no shadow of doubt about that. Now, unless the Government take action immediately, the problem may become completely out of hand and the monetary resources available to us now may not be available at some period in the future to deal effectively with the problem if we permit it to get out of hand.
Pollution is not a problem to be dealt with today and forgotten about tomorrow. Pollution is something which affects the lives of all of us. It must, therefore, be regarded as a serious matter. But pollution is something more because it affects not only our own lives but it will seriously affect the lives of generations yet unborn. We owe it to future generations to ensure that they will have an opportunity of growing up in a healthy and happy environment. According to the Scriptures, faith without good works is death: the affluence people may acquire will be of no avail if their life span is endangered by the environment in which they live.
I regard pollution of our natural waterways as a form of violence against mankind. How would one react if a neighbour were to dump rubbish on one's property? How would one react if a neighbour poured poisons into one's drinking water? I am sure there are few of us here who can afford the luxury of a private swimming pool but, if we had a swimming pool and that swimming pool was contaminated by a neighbour, how would we react to that? Most of us would react very angrily and possibly aggressively in such circumstances. How then can we go on tolerating these self-same acts on a national level? How should we react to those acts? We should not, of course, tolerate them both in our own interests and in the interests of those who will come after us.
We are at the moment in a very favourable position to deal with pollution because 95 per cent of our waterways are under our own control. This is due to our island position. With goodwill and co-operation on the part of our citizens I believe we can become a very special place in which people can live and enjoy themselves in pleasant surroundings. The tourist industry has been in the news of late. Through circumstances beyond our control and matters entirely beyond the influence of the present Government the tourist industry is in a very, very serious position. I believe it is the intention to try to attract tourists to this country. Apart from that, every Member of the Oireachtas should spend his holidays at home this year. Every Member of the Oireachtas should also encourage and influence those he knows outside this country to come and spend their holidays here. Certain tourists who have come here in the past may be discouraged because of some belief on their part that this country is suffering the same violence as is being suffered unfortunately by those in the six north-eastern counties.
We should make every effort now to eradicate the pollution of our rivers, lakes and streams. If we do that we will be able to offer tourists the unique attraction of bathing, fishing and boating in waters free from pollution. I spoke about goodwill and co-operation. I believe pollution is a problem which every normal citizen wants to solve. I appeal to the Government and, in particular, to the Minister to allow the Second Reading of this Bill to go unchallenged or, at least, allow a free vote so that every Deputy can decide for himself, irrespective of party affiliation, whether he should vote for or against the Second Reading of this Bill. This is not a party political matter. Granted the names of those supporting the Bill belong to the one party; maybe it would be better if the names of members of the Government Party and the Labour Party had been included. However, I wish to point out that this Bill was first mooted by the National Waters Conservation Association of which I have the honour to be a member and of which other Deputies from the different parties are also members.
In the actual framing of the Bill I had to seek assistance from senior members of my own party and certain members have appended their names to this Bill as a sign of their goodwill and their wish that this Bill be implemented.
Most, if not all, Deputies are concerned to maintain high standards of public health and to preserve the amenities that nature has given into our care. High living standards cannot be divorced from environment. Can we regard it as progress if Mrs. X possesses a dishwasher which is using polluted water or if someone has a fibreglass boat to carry him through sewage on the coast? I do not think we can measure progress in terms of people's material possessions. Progress can better be measured according to the environment in which people live. In this connection I wish to quote from the Sunday Times of 7th September, 1969, in which a true phrase was coined:
One man's sewer is another man's water supply.
I wish also to quote from an article by Denis Coughlan in The Irish Times 6th January, 1970, which shows how true that phrase is:
Rivers provide most of the tap water in Ireland and in inland communities they take back most of the sewage which is, in the main, untreated.
We must ask ourselves if we can afford to allow such a situation to continue. Again, let me quote a statement by Harry Kramer, Director of the Taft Sanitary Engineering Centre in Cincinnati, in Our Polluted Planet which is published by the Ambassador College Research Department in England:
A few years ago the only waterborne virus diseases were hepatitis and polio-myelitis.
Today, according to him—and he is regarded as an authority—there are over 100 different diseases listed. The analysis of one American river, the Connecticut, reveals how foul fresh waters can become. One random sample of the Connecticut disclosed disease bacteria such as typhoid, paratyphoid, cholera, salmonella, tuberculosis, polio, anthrax, tetanus, plus countless other viruses. That is not all. Repulsive parasitic life forms such as tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm, pinworm and blood flukes were also present in abundance.
Similar conditions also exist on the other side of the globe. Disease organisms abound in that beautiful and natural harbour of Sidney in Australia. The Australian International News Review says: “Name your disease”, and with very little effort you can catch it merely by going swimming in the harbour or almost anywhere along the coast for 20 miles above and below the city. Reports of typhoid and paratyphoid organisms have made headlines in Sidney newspapers.
A form of pollution which is very prevalent in Ireland, and particularly in rural Ireland, is pollution from silage. It has become one of the most persistent forms of pollution and has proved very destructive to fish life in our rivers. It is contended by two Irish scientists, Mr. T.S. Spillane and Mr. J. O'Shea of the Agricultural Institute—and again I quote from an article entitled "Costing Clean Water" by Denis Coughlan in The Irish Times of 6th January, 1970—that simple equipment costing £4 and using water power, can be used effectively to deal with the menace locally. I do not think it would be imposing any hardship, and definitely no financial hardship, on farmers were they compelled to install this system in order to deal effectively with silage pollution.
There is another type of pollution which is common in rural Ireland, that is, from the disposal of animal manure. The same writer says that the oxidisation ditch may provide the answer to this. Therefore, compelling farmers to adopt methods to deal effectively with the pollution menace would not appear to impose any great financial strain on their resources.
Salmon and trout waters have always been a source of pride to us. They are a great source of income to the tourist trade as well as being a very valued amenity to the citizens of this country.
Industrial pollution has provided many instances in recent years of the destruction of fish life in our rivers. Industry suspected of guilt were quick enough to make amends and it would seem from this reaction that the possibility of heavy fines might go further to persuade such industries to research ways and means of avoiding a recurrence of this form of pollution.
Coarse fishing in recent years has been a further tourist attraction and it has created a very prosperous atmosphere in many inland towns. This thriving attraction has been threatened not alone by river pollution but by inland lake pollution. The principal cause of this is the seepage of fertilisers which promotes underwater plant growth. This underwater plant growth uses up the oxygen in the rivers. If you have a big increase in the growth of plant life naturally it will use up the oxygen and this renders it almost impossible for fish life to exist in those rivers and lakes.
I realise that the problem of pollution like every other problem cannot be fully controlled by legislation, but I think that it calls for the setting up of research teams to investigate remedies and to co-operate with the local angling associations and other interested parties in an effort to combat this menace. Special mention should be made of the local angling associations because they are primarily interested in the fish life and in seeing that normal health conditions of rivers are maintained to allow fish to live in them. Special regard should be had to their demands in this matter.
Pollution in rural Ireland is mainly from silage and artificial manures, but in the city areas most of the pollution problems are due to effluent from industries. To those who feel that industry would oppose any legislation being implemented in regard to the control of pollution, I wish to quote from the Newsletter of the Federation of Irish Industries of 13th January, 1970, which stated:
Then there is the story of the industrialist proposing to set up his slightly noisome process in a certain part of Ireland and his wish to satisfy Government's fear as to the BOD rating of effluent; the Government Department concerned analysed samples sent forward and found them grossly unsatisfactory, whereupon, they were amazed to learn that these were samples not of effluent but of intake. The story, even if apocryphal, well illustrates industry's double interest in the present concern about the general problem of pollution. The problem has assumed serious social and health as well as economic implications in some parts of the country already. Clean air and water and a generally more demanding attitude to the conservation of the physical environment are of importance to us all as persons, and, by the same token, although perhaps not to quite the same extent, as potential users of or polluters of the physical environment. A great deal of publicity has been given recently to the sad state of many Irish rivers—fish have died in some and others are said to be incapable of maintaining any form of life. Public opinion can very easily look for a scapegoat in industry and ignore the fact that family households by deed and local authorities by omission are more likely to be the culprits.
It is two years since we had what was called Conservation Year. Some people rather humourously referred to it as conservation year. At the beginning of Conservation Year there was a statement in The Irish Press of 28th February, 1970, headed “Authority for Conservation”“Flanagan's earnest hope” and it stated:
An authority is likely to be established by the end of the year to co-ordinate at national level all activity related to the preservation of the environment. In Dublin yesterday, Mr. Flanagan, Minister for Lands and Chairman of the National Committee for Conservation Year, said he was convinced that this country could no longer afford to have responsibility for environmental issues spread haphazardly over a whole range of Government Departments and other bodies with no one authority charged with general co-ordination to a definite national plan for management, maintenance and improvement of the natural environment. "It is my earnest hope that before 1970 is out, we will have found means of meeting this need" Mr. Flanagan told a meeting of TCD's Elizabethan Society.
This was early 1970 and the Minister for Lands hoped that an environmental ministry would be established in which one particular Department would be concerned with all aspects and not have it spread over seven or eight different Departments and a countless number of different State and semi-State bodies.
A British MP once proclaimed in the House of Commons that it was no longer possible to swim on the English beaches. He said that all that one could do was to go through the motion of swimming. The experience of bathers in Dublin Bay last year was on the same lines, in particular in the part of Dublin Bay which I have the honour to represent—Dollymount Strand, commonly known as the Bull Wall. Families who for generations enjoyed the swimming facilities there and whose families enjoyed happy days on this strand are no longer inclined to take their families to Dollymount. Many of them will not allow their children to bathe in this particular stretch of Dublin Bay because of its polluted state. I have spoken to people who have been in the habit of swimming at the other end of the bay, in Sandycove and such areas, and they have told me that they would now be very reluctant to swim there. Dublin Bay has reached a very polluted stage. I should like to refer to and praise the attempts of the Dublin Bay Preservation Association to bring this matter to the notice of the public in general and to try to have something done.
Dublin Bay is just one area which is polluted. There are others. Our famous River Liffey is heavily polluted. Somebody passing through Dublin remarked that he knew when he was crossing the Liffey with his eyes shut, that even if he could not see it he could smell it. The River Tolka in Dublin has also been badly polluted. I must say there has been a reasonable improvement in this river since Dublin Corporation installed a new pumping station in the Finglas area. This has helped to some extent to relieve the pollution on the Tolka. But it still remains a very serious matter and requires a lot of attention. Not all the effluent from various factories is directed away from the Tolka. In addition, certain residential areas, if they can be regarded as residential, in close proximity to the Tolka are unable, due to their low lying position, to connect with the main sewer; and it is a known fact that untreated domestic sewage in this year of 1972, goes into the Tolka, which flows through some of the most picturesque parts of Dublin.
It is the aim of this Bill to have one Department responsible for dealing with pollution and matters appertaining thereto. People are confused about who they should approach or who they should blame for the pollution of rivers or lakes. Four or five years ago I addressed a parliamentary question to the then Minister for Local Government and he told me that it was entirely outside his sphere and that if I wanted to inquire about this I should address my inquiries to the sanitary services section of Dublin Corporation. I took his advice and wrote to the sanitary services section about the River Tolka. They told me that they were not aware of any serious form of pollution or anything being really wrong with the River Tolka except that certain domestic articles such as prams, beds, bicycle frames and parts of cars had been dumped there. It happened to be a time when the level of the river was low and they felt that when there was rain and a rise in the level of the river everything would be lovely. I got in touch with the medical officer of health and he told me that he was aware of different types of effluent and raw sewage which were flowing into the river. He said he was fully aware and had been for years of the fact that where the Tolka flows through one of our main tourist attractions in Dublin, the Botanic Gardens, it is highly polluted and smells to high heaven, to use his words. Where there are several different bodies dealing with a problem you cannot pinpoint or blame any particular body for being responsible and if you want redress you cannot approach any particular body.
In Dublin, there is also the River Dodder which was heavily polluted but, to give credit where it is due, I am informed that it is now free of pollution. I understand that its pollution in the main was due to effluent from a particular factory——