While speaking on this Bill yesterday evening the Minister asked me if I had any proof of pollution being caused by the discharge of sewage into the sea. He quoted two or three eminent people who were qualified to give an opinion as to the possibility of disease being caused by untreated sewage entering the sea. I must confess that there is no definite proof of this but, on the other hand, neither is there any definite proof that untreated sewage flowing into the sea does not cause any disease. Different people at different times have claimed that they got a rash or suffered some other inconvenience from swimming in waters that were polluted.
On the 10th June, 1970, I asked the Minister for Health if he had any evidence to indicate that infectious hepatitis was more prevalent in areas adjacent to rivers and waters that were polluted. In his reply the Minister told me that it was generally agreed that occasional outbreaks of hepatitis might be caused by food or water. Apparently the Minister for Health had no doubt as to it being agreed generally that this disease could be contracted from water. People who dive into the sea at, say, the Forty Foot, sometimes, come up to find themselves covered in human excreta. Can anyone blame these people if they regard themselves as being subject to a health hazard in such waters?
I have no wish to create any unnecessary scare in this matter but can the waters in this part of the world be regarded as being any different in this respect from those elsewhere? In this connection I might refer to an item that appeared in the Australian International News Review in which there appeared these words: “Name your disease and with very little effort you can catch it merely from going swimming anywhere inside the harbour itself or almost anywhere along the coast for 20 miles above and below the city.” If it is possible to contract any disease in that part of the world, surely it is logical to assume that it could be contracted in any other part of the world. I am not for one moment endeavouring to cross swords with the eminent people to whom the Minister referred, but I merely make this point.
I shall not delay the House unduly this evening, but I would refer the Minister to the health hazards that exist in so far as polluted waters are concerned. I would remind him of an article that appeared in the Evening Herald of the 6th November last. This article. Which was headed “Paddling Pool is Health Danger”, said that parents of hundreds of children who use a paddling pool at Drumcondra are warning their children to stay clear of the pool because they fear it is a health hazard. The report said that, according to a report of the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, the pool at Griffith Park on the Tolka River is acting as a settling tank for sludge making conditions, that it was suspect and indicative of sewage contamination. These warnings should be heeded and should be the means of alerting the Minister to the dangers of children exposing themselves to paddling or swimming in an area which can be regarded as being almost in the centre of the city.
Innumerable children have free access to this park and the Minister should take immediate action because of the danger lurking there. In the Evening Herald of 5th November there is a report to the effect that this popular paddling pool in Griffith Park is a mass of sludge and possibly sewerage. The Evening Herald of 16th November says no comfort can be drawn from the views expressed on behalf of the Government in the course of the Dáil Debate on the Fine Gael Private Notice Motion calling for legislation to deal with air and water pollution; the report also says that the views expressed by Deputy Cunningham, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government, confirms the view that the present Government will not approach the question of pollution with any realism. It is also stated that we are so far behind in this matter that nothing short of a full-time ministry to deal with the whole question of environment is urgently required.
While there may not be any positive evidence to show that disease has resulted from swimming in either the sea or the rivers which are polluted, the Minister must agree that there is no evidence to disprove the case. The Minister for Health in June, 1970 said it is generally agreed that outbreaks of infective hepatitis might be either food or water borne. Mark you, generally agreed! This is an admission that disease can be caused by water pollution.
The question of our entry into the EEC looms large at the moment. We are anxious to have foreign industrialists coming in here to set up industries. We will have to ensure that these industries enjoy every amenity possible and one of the amenities must be a satisfactory method of dealing with effluents from factories. We must ensure that we are not lacking in all the facilities required for the establishment of successful industries. Would it not be calamitous if, having encouraged foreign industrialists to come in here, we then failed to measure up because of non-conformance with regulations governing environment.
There are no regulations worth talking about at the moment. Most of our factories are, of course, sited along the coast. It is our hope that more factories will be established in rural Ireland, in the west and in the midlands, and we should not hesitate for one moment now in establishing perfect conditions in these areas so that industrialists will be assured that we conform to all the rules and regulations governing the discharge of effluents from factories.
The Government have in the past held out hope that they would deal with pollution. In the Irish Independent in November, 1969, there is a heading: “The Government to attack Pollution.” Dealing with pollution and its cause, the article says that there is an indication that the Government have acknowledged this calamity and this outrage and were taking effective steps to deal with it. In December, 1965, in the Irish Press, there was a heading: “A welcome step against water pollution” and the article went on to state that anglers in general would welcome the Government's decision to establish a commission to carry out research into the pollution of lakes and rivers. This was to be headed by a former chief inspector of the British Fishery Association. What happened? The intentions never reached fulfilment.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister said I mentioned only 20 rivers, or fewer; I thought that by mentioning 20 rivers I was giving a good indication of how widespread this problem is and showing that it was not confined to any particular area. The Parliamentary Secretary seems to think I did not mention enough rivers. I will now mention the Camac in Dublin which everybody knows is very heavily polluted. I also omitted the River Swan in Dublin which is polluted. I did not mention the Oranmore in Sligo which is very slightly polluted and the Garravogue which is polluted to a somewhat greater extent. I understand Lough Gill in Sligo has been subject to pollution. The River Inny, which is a tributary of the Shannon, has been slightly polluted and so has the River Brosna. There are countless smaller rivers which I did not mention. I thought it was sufficient to mention the larger rivers and thus give an indication of the areas in which pollution exists.
For Deputy Cunningham's information, I cannot mention any Donegal river which is polluted but if they lack pollution in rivers they have an abundance of political pollution in his constituency.