Before the debate adjourned I referred to the western European countries showing concern in relation to the protection of water. I also pointed out——
Local Government (Water Pollution) Bill, 1976: Second Stage (Resumed).
Order. A commotion can be heard within the House. I must ask for order.
The obvious need to protect fresh water against pollution highlighted the need to protect the environment as a whole. For too long the existence of what appeared to be large quantities of water of a high quality created the general impression that all was well. When Governments began to recognise that supplies were limited, particularly in this technological age, they realised that it was vital to make the best possible use of the available water. They wakened to the need to limit the pollution of fresh water and to establish measures for its management. I referred specifically to the technological age because it was at that time, when the usage of water increased immensely, that the rapid deterioration of the environment took place. The pollution of fresh water, with its obvious physical signs, alerted the public to environmental problems in general. If as has already been recognised, water is limited in quantity, then the restriction on supplies caused by pollution could be disastrous. Therefore decisions were taken in many countries to legislate for water management. We have been tardy in bringing in the necessary legislation. Perhaps this relates to the fact that for quite some time our problems were not as acute as the problems elsewhere.
On this side of the House we have some fears about the efficacy of the Bill because it grants powers only to local authorities to take action to control pollution. It could be said that the activities of local authorities to date do not give room for optimism. There are other options open to the Government. As the Parliamentary Secretary said, it may be decided that these options should be availed of in future. The problem is that we are not certain whether local authorities were the accepted authorities on the basis that they were already in existence or whether the Minister and his Department believed that the local authorities were the best organisations to use.
As this is a serious problem, we should concern ourselves with controlling the spread of pollution. The local authorities have been given a large share of the responsibility for the control of pollution. I first tended to take the view that this was like setting a thief to catch a thief. None of us can be proud of our performance in the past in regard to pollution. Indeed, Deputy O'Leary mentioned that local authorities have been serious offenders in the past. The advisory body have stated that this Bill represents a significant improvement on past legislation. Were it not an improvement on past legislation we should be wasting the time of the House discussing the Bill. We must be satisfied that the Bill will bring this problem under control.
It is also true to say that the excellent Summer has highlighted the problem of pollution. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the low level of the rivers. In addition to the low level of the rivers the seepage from silage pits and from slurry containers into rivers which are sources of water supply for many towns and villages has played havoc with supplies. The supply in my own constituency of Clogherhead in County Louth became so polluted it was declared unsafe for human consumption.
This, unfortunately, happened at the height of the tourist season. The situation was so bad that even when the health authority declared that the water was again safe for human consumption few in the village were satisfied to drink it so frightened were they of the fact that a product such as paraquat could have been in the water. The taking of paraquat could result in death. That case underlines the need to inspect the water supplies to our villages and towns and to endeavour to anticipate the problems of this kind rather than waiting until the problem occurs and then taking action. This would cost money but money must be found if we are to deal effectively with the whole problem of water pollution.
Where a local authority is responsible for such a water supply and where it will mean considerable extra expense for this authority to carry out its obligations under this Bill, can we assume that it is likely to act expeditiously if it is not assured that money will be made available to carry out its obligations? I am anxious to know what type of financial assistance will be available to the authorities under the Bill. It is proposed to exempt discharges from sewers from licence control under the Bill and I can understand the reasoning for this. I suppose it would look rather silly if the licensing authority had to licence itself. But at the same time, because of the fact that control of discharge from public sewers is important, we cannot afford to leave it to the discretion of each local authority whether they would look after in a proper manner the discharge from these sewers. Failure of even one local authority to carry out its proper function in this field would have serious consequences. There is another reason why I feel we should consider that exemption and that is by insisting on licensing in this area we would bring the local authority within the ambit of the regulations laid down. We would keep them on their toes and see to it that they would not only be concerning themselves about pollution caused by other persons but also with pollution caused by themselves.
At present from a legal point of view the position is that a victim of pollution is only able to obtain redress if he takes action under the law of civil liability. This refers to all types of pollution—water, air and noise. Such action was supposed to act as a deterrent, but even before the relatively recent intensification of pollution generally this was ineffective. I can recall a case in my constituency where the victims of pollution took court action but by that stage the damage was done. Of course the taking of such action by an individual is an expensive matter and it is usually an individual against a large concern which is more able to carry the cost. It is now accepted that such action is not preventative and the introduction of this legislation by the Minister points to the fact that he accepts this. I should like to add that when an individual takes such action he may find that because of his limited resources it may be impossible for him to prove the identification of the polluter, because it is now known that a variety of pollutants interact on one another and the type of pollution changes form and therefore is difficult to identify.
Modern society is much dependent on surface water for waste disposal and the use of fresh water for agriculture and industry. It is difficult therefore to impose an absolute prohibition on any pollutant. What means will the Minister place at the disposal of the local authority to deal with pollutants before they enter our rivers, streams and lakes? We can learn a considerable amount from the way these matters are dealt with in other countries which have great experience in this field. I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Department have been concerned about this. I believe it is by no means sufficient to rely on deterrents such as fines. I agree that fines are necessary as also is the withdrawal of licences and permits where appropriate. The Minister should try to visualise a situation where an industry is providing a large volume of employment and where a heavy fine or the removal of a permit might result in closing such an industry temporarily or permanently. Theoretically it is easy to say that where such an industry persists in breaking the law it must accept the penalties, but the practicalities of it are that a Government faced with the prospect of large scale unemployment would be more likely to be swayed by that fact rather than environmental protection.
I want to stress the need for the development of all technological aids to be put at the disposal of industry and agriculture so as to avert such a situation. The Minister proposes to give power to a local authority charged with responsibilities in relation to pollution of fresh water to take action outside the confines of the area for which it has authority if it believes that the source of the pollution is from outside. This is a good section; it is reasonable. But I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he has had any discussions with the Northern Ireland authorities on this matter. Will there be any co-operation in this field with them? Many of our rivers and streams have their sources in Northern Ireland, and obviously the authority granted in this Bill to take action outside a local authority domain will not apply in Northern Ireland. I should like to know what the Parliamentary Secretary can do to ensure that where pollutants enter streams in Northern Ireland there will be co-operation between both sides to reduce the damage done.
I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that local authorities have endeavoured to have a certain amount of co-operation across the Border, although not successfully. If we are to concern ourselves with the country as a whole it is essential that we should have the necessary co-operation in this field. Penal sanctions are being imposed on those responsible for polluting our waters and this is as it should be. However, the Parliamentary Secretary should set in motion a campaign designed to show the great value of the environment and the elements which go to its making. This would encourage a positive approach by those involved to see the value of protecting the environment and would be more valuable in relation to overcoming environmental problems than sanctions can ever be in the long term. It is necessary to create a consciousness of the real and worth-while benefits accruing to the protection of the environment.
It is true to say that for a very long time the environment was regarded as not having any economic or social value or significance. It was only when we began to realise that the various elements of which our environment consists were in danger, beginning as I said earlier with the recognition of the dangers of water pollution that we began to appreciate the immense value and exceptional contribution they made towards the quality of life as we know it and to appreciate the disaster which would quickly overtake our mode of life if pollution were allowed to continue unabated. The Parliamentary Secretary at some stage said that the water pollution advisory council had something like this in hands. I have not seen the exhibition to which he referred but it would be very useful if we knew exactly what the council were doing in relation to that aspect of the matter.
On the management side it is essential that public authorities, on whom the responsibility will now devolve, should endeavour to ensure that available fresh water is used in the best possible way to satisfy the needs of the people and of industry. They must arrange that the quality of water is not unnecessarily impaired. As I mentioned a few moments ago, there is a growing realisation of the psychological, economic and social value of the natural environment. Therefore, apart from any other consideration, the need to protect our rivers and lakes as essential elements of the countryside is being appreciated. At a time when the stresses and strains of modern living are so intense, anything that will ease these tensions and provide for a better and fuller life is of vital importance.
Over the years we have been surveying our water resources and monitoring the conditions of fresh water. In 1969 a water resource division was set up in An Foras Forbartha and the country's major water courses have been catalogued and the level of pollution ascertained. The work done in this field by An Foras has been excellent and provides us with the kind of information that is helpful in identifying what action must be taken as a matter of urgency.
If I might for a moment revert to the point I was making about the assistance needed to help purify waste water, I would again like to point out that it is not enough to prohibit the discharge of pollution into rivers, streams and lakes, but we must provide, where possible, for the elimination of such subjects. Obviously water must be used by people, by agriculture and industry and a solution could be to purify waste water. I admit that this is a very costly affair and I do not know if it is necessary in Ireland. It would be necessary to give a considerable amount of financial assistance to local authorities concerned with responsibility in this field. It would also be necessary to give financial assistance to industries responsible for the discharge of pollutants into rivers and lakes so that they could do their duty to avoid pollution.
This is a matter of considerable urgency. It is not sufficient for the Minister to introduce rules and regulations to control effluents and for sanctions where they are contravened, and at the same time not to make provision for assisting financially these local authorities and industries to provide for sewage disposal and sewage treatment.
The Minister decided that the local sanitary authorities will be responsible for operating the regulations when this Bill becomes an Act. Has the Parliamentary Secretary given any consideration to giving some type of representation on these bodies, for this purpose only, to representatives of industry who are very large users of water and who are responsible for quite an amount of pollution? It would be a very worth-while exercise to involve in some way such groups in our efforts to overcome pollution problems. If they were given some right to participate in our efforts to overcome pollution problems they would get a broader view of the problems than they previously held. To them it would no longer be a purely sectional interest but something which affects everybody in the country including themselves.
What I have said already about fresh water pollution applies in equal measure to the protection of the air, the countryside, wild flora and fauna and so on. It is disappointing that at this stage we in Ireland are only making a beginning, and that in reference to water only. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would let me know what discussions have taken place with his opposite numbers in other countries where a considerable amount of work has been done to control pollution, what information he has gleaned and how it can be of assistance to him. A considerable amount of study and research have been carried out in western Europe into these problems, into noxiousness of effluents containing a variety of metals, into the effects flowing from certain highly polluting branches of industry with very special environmental problems, the effects of detergents in water and so on. As I said before, we can learn a considerable amount from other countries.
I would also like to know what study has been made in respect of the effect of pollution on bathing areas, in both fresh and sea waters and its effects on fish life, including shellfish. If we are to know were we are going it is vital that these studies be carried out and that we learn from successful efforts at home and abroad how to continue our treatment and our efforts to overcome the whole problem of water pollution.
There is, of course, a very close connection between fresh water pollution and the pollution of certain areas of the sea, the discharge through rivers and estuaries being one of the main sources of marine pollution. This is also covered in the Bill. Therefore, it is essential to study the problems of both together and in this way help the authorities responsible for water pollution in rivers and lakes in their area also to control pollution in their coastal area. The methods used to control pollution would be basically the same, irrespective of the type of area in which the pollution occurred, and it would not be possible to deal in isolation with marine pollution in so far as this is caused by polluted rivers.
Another aspect of this matter which has already been raised by Deputy O'Leary is that this country is very dependent on tourism. Because of that we must be especially concerned about pollution of our beaches which could result in the destruction of bathing facilities. The same is true to some extent in relation to rivers and lakes. From the point of view of our tourist industry we must ensure the preservation of marine life. This, of course, is vitally important where our fishermen are concerned, apart altogether from the tourist industry.
In regard to marine pollution, it is interesting to note that when concern was first expressed about a growing pollution problem in our rivers and lakes little concern was shown for the same problem in regard to the sea. It was apparently considered large enough to act as a recipient of all kinds of waste. We are only too well aware now that this conclusion was incorrect and the seas and oceans are in much greater danger from pollution than we thought. Some years ago at a conference in Helsinki I was told that the Baltic was severely polluted and was causing a great deal of worry to those countries bordering on it.
As I said, we know now that fresh waters and the seas are not isolated. We know that discharges from rivers are one of the main sources of pollution of the seas. It is a fact that results achieved in dealing with fresh water pollution can be applied to marine pollution and, of course, the opposite is equally true. Quite obviously the preservation and enhancement of the quality of the marine environment is highly desirable and every effort should be made to achieve this.
The greatest pollutant of our waters is untreated domestic and urban sewerage. We have had a report on this as a result of a survey initiated by a former Minister for Local Government. The bulk of the pollutants come from synthetic detergents and human waste. The dangers to health are obvious and the damage done to the quality of life does not need to be described. We have all had experience of it. When one looks at the condition of our larger rivers and at many of our streams one can only regard the situation as deplorable. In the past many poems were written about the sparkling waters in our rivers and streams. Looking at the havoc now one can only wonder how it was possible to write in that manner about our rivers and streams. The health hazard is obvious. The danger to fish and vegetation is equally obvious. Both find it difficult to survive in some instances.
Local authorities, industrialists, farmers and others who have a responsibility in this regard should shoulder that responsibility. Every effort must be made to ensure that regulations designed to reduce the dangers attendant on pollution are observed. I am aware that it has been possible statistically to point out that the serious water pollution rate in our rivers was 7 per cent. We must remind ourselves that this survey was undertaken back in 1971 and a considerable deterioration has taken place since then. In any case that particular figure is an overall figure. If we were to take individual samplings we would find areas, especially where rivers pass through towns, with a much higher pollution rate. The evidence is so obvious we do not need scientific proof. The proof was quite patent during the recent hot summer.
The problem of fresh water pollution is one well within our capacity to control. It is growing more serious with the passage of time and there are more and more complaints all over the country about increasing pollution and the damage to fish life. It is clear that many local authorities have not taken the necessary steps to deal with the pollution for which they themselves are responsible. This may be because they have not got sufficient powers. We can only hope that with the greater powers given to them under this Bill the problem will be solved.
It is heartening to note from a report on British tidal waters that the situation there has improved considerably. According to the report one mile in every ten of river classified as heavily polluted two years ago has been improved. This was achieved as a result of considerable capital expenditure allied to strict control of all discharges. Fish have returned to the Thames at London.
It is disturbing to learn in the Inland Fisheries Report that a serious pollution problem has occurred in our inland waters, is increasing in intensity and becoming more widespread as a result of industrial development and intensive farming methods. The problem became very apparent when water levels dropped in the long summer. A call is made for urgent action. This is a call we can ignore only at our peril. The point is made that fish life is an important indicator of water quality and any measures taken to preserve fish life must be beneficial to other water users. A good environment, which includes pure water supplies, makes for better living. We are in the fortunate position of being able to protect an environment which is still to a very considerable degree wholesome.
Some time ago the Minister for Industry and Commerce argued that there was a conflict between the needs of industry and the protection of the environment. My view is that that need not be the case, that there need not be conflict if we manage and develop our resources in the proper manner. Protection of water supplies and of the environment generally is not the duty solely of the bodies nominated in this Bill: it is a matter for all citizens and each of us has the capacity to make his or her contribution.
Environmental policy cannot exclude development. It is a matter of giving development a more human aspect. Production and consumption are not ends in themselves. Social and human progress should be the aim. Up to now the main function of local authorities has been to repair the damage caused by pollution and to take action against offenders. Neither their resources nor their powers were adquate and they were unable to strike at the main causes of pollution and they moved only when its ill-effects were apparent and the health of the community was at risk.
The proper implementation of environmental policy relating to water pollution is not a simple matter. It will be a painful process and will invariably clash with vested interests, industrial and agricultural, and very often the economic exigencies of the moment will determine the public attitude. Because of the cost factor, industry is loath to take the measures necessary. Therefore, I again request the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the position. When technologists provide solutions the Government should lay down pollution toleration limits and the need to assist financing the programmes must be kept in mind.
In relation to the control of water, and indeed all kinds of pollution, which are inter-related, there must be a co-ordinator because otherwise there will be a continuation of the haphazard approach which can end only in disaster. The Minister for the Environment in Britain has the task of co-ordinating efforts in this field and we are considering the possibility of setting up a similar Department. To expect the large number of agencies who deal with environmental matters—they were mentioned by Deputy John O'Leary—to achieve even a semblance of unity on their own is to look for the impossible. I had listed the many groupings involved in this matter but Deputy O'Leary mentioned them and it is not necessary for me to repeat the long list.
However, it is clear to most people that so many varied interests must have their particular attitudes and viewpoints co-ordinated, because otherwise we will return to haphazard methods in our endeavour to control pollution and this will have a seriously detrimental effect on our environment generally.
The Minister proposes to set up a water pollution advisory council on a statutory basis. As Deputy O'Leary said, we should like to see that council having some teeth, appreciating that there will be certain difficulties because the council are to be an advisory body. However, their findings and recommendations should be made available to the public as well as to the Minister. If they issue reports of their activities and recommendations the public will be alerted to the problems and the dangers of water pollution and they will be consequently much more anxious to co-operate and to help to provide the finances which will be necessary to combat pollution.
The Parliamentary Secretary said it is not proposed to set up new administrative structures. I hope that with experience, if the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister find it possible to set up a more efficient structure than that provided for in the Bill, they will have no hesitation in coming to the House looking for an amendment to the Act to that effect.
I note that the licensing authority in the matter of water pollution is to be vested in the administrative counties, including the urban areas, and where it relates to discharges from local authority sewers, urban councils will have functions as well as the county councils in regard to the issuing of licences. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to comment on that.
We accept the Bill. We agree that it is vitally important—in the past we have shown our concern about this— that water pollution should be controlled. Any assistance we can give we will gladly give. On Committee Stage we propose to put down amendments which we believe will tighten up the Bill and we will be glad for favourable consideration of them.
The Parliamentary Secretary's brief is fairly long and explanatory and we have had two speeches from Deputies O'Leary and Faulkner dealing with all aspects of the Bill. Therefore, I will not take up much of the time of the House. One point which strikes me very forcibly about water pollution is whether we have treatment that will control sewage disposal. As happened this year, our lakes and rivers go very low and I should like to know if it is possible to treat sewage in such a way that it will not affect such low water levels so that the water can be used for human consumption.
When I drive into Dublin on a hot summer day my sympathy goes out to anybody who has to live near the Liffey because the stench is certainly not a tourist attraction. Would it be possible to treat the Liffey in such a way that we could get rid of its polluted condition?
We have been blessed in this country, because we were held in subjection for so long and were not allowed to develop industries, that we are fairly free from air and water pollution. We want things to go on like this. Deputy Faulkner mentioned that there may be a difference of opinion between environment and industry. When we industrialise we will not be able to have as pure air and possibly as pure water as we had when we were almost completely residential. Irish people living abroad liked to have estates here so that they could come to them for holidays.
I remember going to England some years ago with some other people and many of us who had weak chests were delighted to touch down at Dublin to get fresh air because of the bad air in some of the highly industrialised cities in England. We have to be very careful that when we industrialise the country we will do everything possible—I support this Bill because it is trying to help—to try to prevent pollution as far as humanly possible. When one industrialises a country it is not humanly possible to keep the air as pure as it was previously.
I do not believe that our State industries have done as much as they should have to prevent pollution. I refer to Bord na Móna and the ESB. I refer particularly to peat silt in the Shannon. The Parliamentary Secretary should know as much about this as anybody. I do not believe settling lakes were arranged in the initial development of bogland. This would have stopped the silt from going into the Shannon. I know that one cannot prevent peat silt, or turf mould as we know it, but I believe more could be done to prevent this getting into the Shannon.
I am not saying that Bord na Móna should not have engaged in turf development or that because we have turf mould in certain areas we should curtail the development work of Bord na Móna. I am not satisfied that enough is being done to prevent pollution. All the scientific methods that can be used should be employed by the State companies to prevent pollution.
I understand that from now on the licensing authorities will be the local authorities. I know that one can appeal to the Minister but I am worried that State companies and local authorities are polluters. Many speakers referred to dumps all over the country which are a disgrace. Everybody wants refuse collected but nobody wants it dumped near where he or she lives. I am not making any comparison between itinerants and dumps. Everybody wants to see itinerants settled but not at one's back door. Everybody wants to see refuse collected but not dumped at one's back door. Local authorities will have to face up to this problem. They should all see that they do not do anything to cause pollution.
I would now like to refer to the attitude of the Department of Local Government and other Departments in relation to housing. I do not believe in building too many big villages and big towns for too many tourist facilities have to be provided. The sewage has to be disposed of somewhere. I am not fully satisfied about the treatment of sewage. Many people could be housed out in the country where septic tanks have been very successful but everything is geared against people doing this at the moment. Encouragement should be given to people to build houses out in the country where septic tanks can be used. This would cut down the expense in providing for large sewage disposal.
As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, county councils cannot afford to provide many sewerage schemes in fairly big villages or towns. If decent grants were given to people, as was done in the case of group water schemes, to engage in group sewerage schemes this would be a great help. People could get together and have sewerage schemes in their own villages. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will consider this point seriously. If we are waiting until county councils are able to provide sewerage schemes for all the villages in the different counties we will be waiting a very long time. The present grants for sewerage schemes are completely inadequate. Extra money needs to be provided to encourage group sewerage schemes.
Agriculture has been referred to as a bad source of pollution. I can assure the people who may not have a great interest in agriculture that very stringent measures have been taken by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to ensure that people do not cause unnecessary pollution. Anybody who wants to put up a silage unit will not get a grant if there is a danger of pollution. A person must comply with the regulations of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. A silage unit cannot be set up anywhere near a lake, and slurry tanks must be put in. We have been pressing the Department for a long time to give grants for slurry disposal outfits. All these things have to be done at present, so that I cannot see any real danger in relation to silage units. Before these regulations came in there may have been bad planning in relation to silage units, but I can assure everybody in this House that there is no danger now that anybody in agriculture can get grants or put up silage units that do not comply with all the regulations necessary to prevent pollution. It is important that there should be propaganda about the effects of pollution because nobody in the country, farmers, labourers and so on, want to see the environment destroyed by pollution. The advisory committee the Minister proposes to set up should be a balanced committee which would take into consideration that everything humanly possible that experts can do should be done to prevent pollution.
If we want to industrialise this country we cannot have clear air and water, and we cannot hope to survive in this country without industries. Bord na Móna are polluting the Shannon to a certain extent, although it may not be a very dangerous pollution. We in the west had to make a decision whether we would have Bord na Móna and the consequent employment with the minimum amount of pollution. It was a unanimous decision that, provided Bord na Móna did everything possible to minimise pollution, we would accept something that would benefit the people, even if we would not have as clear water as we had before Bord na Móna extended their developments. There must be a balance between industrial expansion and the prevention of pollution. We just cannot have pure air and pure water if we are to industrialise the country. Nobody would suggest that we should abolish industries in order to have clear air and water. We are in the privileged position that we have a reasonably pure country, except for the Liffey. I do not know why something is not done about that. If there is treatment for pollution, why is the Liffey not being treated?
From what I see in the Bill the local authority will be the licensing authority. One of the things that worry me about this is that local authorities are inclined to be polluters. If they are polluters it would be the private individual who would have to take them to task, and that would be a very big and expensive job for the private individual to take on. The licensing authority, I understand, do not come within the Act at all.
I am fully behind these provisions. This is a very necessary measure and it is important that both industrialists and environment protection people should be represented on the advisory committee, and should have a say in regard to what industry would be suitable to any given place. There has been too much conflict between organisations which have been set up to protect the environment and the people who want to industrialise the country. They should all meet together and let common sense prevail, so that everything humanly possible will be done to prevent pollution without harming industry. Many people in this country are leaving the land; there is a lot of unemployment and industries must be brought in so as to employ these people. The rules and regulations laid down by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries at the moment are very strict, and you cannot be a polluter and get any grant, and you cannot develop without grants.
We may have more to say about this Bill on Committee Stage. This Bill has been debated in the Seanad, and I am sure many amendments were made to the Bill. However, there are a few points yet to be teased out. Will there be any control over the licensing authority, which is the local authority, because I would not like private individuals to have to take a local authority to law over a breach of the pollution laws? It would be very unfair for a private individual to have to spend that amount of money to get his normal rights.
I should be grateful if somebody would clear my mind once and for all—I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to do so in his reply—on the whole question of treatment of sewage disposal if and when it is put into effect. For instance, this year the level of the rivers was never so low. If a large town is built beside a river I want to know if the sewage can be treated in such a way that if the river is nearly dry it is all right? I doubt it.
As I said earlier, why is not something done about the River Liffey in the summer? People come here and say "Dublin is lovely" and so on, but I can assure the House that, as a man reared in the country, I would not like to spend a couple of hours down on the quays of Dublin on a fine day. Why is not all of this excellent treatment put into effect?
Those are just a few of the points I should like clarified with regard to this whole question of treatment of sewage. I really want to know is the treatment effective no matter what the proportion of water it enters.
Like other Deputies, I welcome this Bill, the object of which is to make arrangements more effective for the control of pollution. Any Bill endeavouring to do that is to be welcomed and is worthy of support. However, I am not so sure that it will work out so well in practice. Certainly I have some very strong reservations. The main one is the control being given to local authorities in this area. As we know, in the past local authorities have been prosecuted and convicted for breaches of the Pollution Acts. I know of several such local authorities. I put down a question not so long ago in this regard, when I received information on the number of local authorities that have been prosecuted and convicted for breaches of existing laws. For that reason I too am sceptical about this provision that local authorities should have the say in this vital area.
Many problems are involved in an area such as the Shannon Estuary and the catchment area of the River Shannon, which probably touches on something like 13 counties. I wonder whether consultation will be possible between, say, all the authorities that would be involved in a catchment area of that size, with the fishery boards and all of the other interests involved. That is something I feel that is not adequately covered in this Bill.
I am glad the Minister has decided to set up an advisory council. I should like to know who will be represented on this council. I should like to recommend that the fishery boards be fully represented. They have done magnificent work within the limited powers available to them up to now. In the fisheries legislation which we were told today would be introduced next year I hope the revised boards will be placed in a position to give valuable information and advice to this advisory council. I would ask the Minister to bear that in mind and ensure their fullest representation on the advisory council.
In section 25 there is a new departure. The section proposes to establish new local authorities. I am not so sure that this is desirable. However, as Deputy Callanan said, we can go into that in more detail on Committee Stage. If there are to be new local authorities established there would have to be far more provision than has been included in this section.
In all of the sections of this Bill I fail to see any reference to the payment of damages in cases where pollution occurs, accidentally or otherwise. Thousands and thousands of pounds worth of damage can be done overnight to salmon, trout and other fish stocks. There is no provision in this Bill of any power, to local authorities or anybody else, to sue for damages arising from discharges, accidental or otherwise. That is a serious omission from the Bill and I should like to know what the Minister has to say in that respect. Perhaps the Bill could be amended in some way in order to introduce power to claim damages where such may be serious. I know of cases where damage overnight was estimated at £10,000 to £15,000 to fish stocks. At a later stage I hope some provision will be inserted in the Bill whereby either local authorities, the advisory council or the Minister will have power to sue people in cases where damage is done. I know that the cost of actions and so on is covered, but provision must be made for sueing people where damage is done through such discharges. I am not sure about the length of time that can elapse while appeals and so on are pending. While an application for a licence is being pursued, if pollution and damage continue there should be some provision whereby a temporary stop could be put to discharges until such time as the application for the licence has been decided. There could be a lapse of some six to 12 months while an application for a licence was under consideration, during which time pollution can continue. Some provision should be included here which would prohibit such discharges taking place pending a decision on whether or not a licence is to be granted.
I welcome the setting up of a monitoring system to check on discharges. I hope some council will be established or officers appointed to tackle this at the very early stages. When damage is done at a very early stage it is difficult to rectify later.
The Bill as a whole is welcome. I am not so sure it will be as effective as we would like. I hope the Minister will bear the points I have raised in mind. If section 25 is to remain I hope we will be given more details of what the Minister proposes with regard to the powers to be given to the new local authorities.
I welcome this Bill wholeheartedly. Indeed, I welcome any Bill dealing with water pollution. I say this because I am in the unique position of being the only Deputy of this Dáil who had a Private Members' Bill on water pollution prior to the last election. As a result of the dissolution of the last Dáil, that Bill fell. It probably was unique inasmuch as it was a rare thing for a Private Members' Bill to be allowed a Second Reading. At different times in the lifetime of this Dáil I was proposing to have it put again on record that I wanted that Bill reintroduced. However, I had an assurance from the Minister for Local Government that he intended introducing such a Bill. I am glad this Bill has been introduced and even though it does not contain all the provisions I would wish at least it is a step in the right direction.
I do not claim to have a greater knowledge of pollution than any other Deputy but probably my attention was particularly drawn to it in that the constituency I represent had to cope with the problem of pollution. The boundary of the constituency is the Liffey and everyone knows that that river is famous for its smell. Dublin Bay is another boundary and the Tolka flows through the middle. During the 1969 election campaign the weather was abnormally fine and at that time the effects of the pollution, particularly in the Tolka, were evident to the people of the area. It was one of the major complaints I received during that campaign.
Immediately after that I approached Dublin Corporation with regard to pollution of the Tolka and I am sorry to say that they professed not to be aware of any problem in that area. They said the pollution was due to the abnormally dry spell and the fact that the river was at a very low level and they expressed the belief that when the fine spell passed things would be back to normal or near normal. However, the people of the area were not prepared to believe this and, in conjunction with some others in the area, we had tests carried out and water samples were submitted to the IIRS. They told us in no uncertain terms that the Tolka was heavily polluted We got in touch with the medical officer in the corporation and sent him a copy of the report. He told us he was fully aware that the Tolka was polluted and that it was in a very serious state. If flows through probably the most scenic part of Dublin, the Botanic Gardens.
As a result of this I put down a motion asking the previous Government to introduce a water pollution Bill but they did not regard it as necessary. Their main reason was that compared with other countries we were free from pollution, that we were not nearly as badly off as others. I was not prepared to accept that. It is an old and true saying that prevention is better than cure and in a small country like this with limited resources I did not think we would have the necessary resources to combat the problem if it got out of hand. However, the then Government thought otherwise and they decided not to introduce a Bill.
My next step was to introduce a Private Members' Bill to deal with the problem. I did not think there was any other effective way of coping with it. At that time practically every Department was connected with it in some way but nobody had direct responsibility. The Departments of Local Government, of Industry and Commerce, of Agriculture and Fisheries and of Lands were all involved in some way but there was not one definite Department to accept responsibility. I was anxious that if we could not appoint a Minister at least a Parliamentary Secretary should have responsibility for dealing with pollution.
I agree that it is not possible to change the whole pattern of life overnight. Certain industries are sited near rivers and they may cause a certain amount of pollution. When they were established probably they conformed to whatever rules and regulations were in force at that time and it would be entirely wrong to expect them to effect changes overnight, probably at a considerable cost to themselves. Many of them might not be able to do so and it might necessitate their closure. Nobody would expect them to effect changes immediately but we would expect them to conform gradually and to the best of their ability to any new regulations that may be necessary.
Deputy Callanan said that agriculture has been blamed for much of the pollution. Probably it is true that that industry is responsible for a certain amount of pollution but the laws and regulations of the time did not forbid them doing what they did. I have in mind the case of pig slurry which is supposed to be one of the major causes of pollution in our rivers.
It would be wrong to expect farmers to undertake grandiose schemes at a tremendous cost to themselves in order to conform to modern requirements. It will have to be a gradual transition. Another cause of pollution is when milk or dairy products get into rivers. In the River Tolka there was a case of effluent from a slaughter house flowing directly into it.