I thank the Minister of State, Deputy English, for staying on for the debate. He has had a busy evening answering Other Questions. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is excused this time. I raise an issue for towns in west Cork, in particular Castletownbere and Castletownshend, where up to two thirds of the raw sewage they produce is being pumped directly into our harbours. Irish Water has recently received substantial fines for this but, strangely, the company has been allowed a grace period of two years to complete the work necessary to alleviate the problem. This is completely unacceptable and it must be addressed immediately. Two years is far too long a timeframe. I may be biased, but I am firmly of the belief that I represent the most beautiful and picturesque constituency in the whole of Ireland. It is a constituency which relies heavily on tourism and fishing. I am not sure whether the Minister of State has ever visited, but I invite him to come down over the summer when I will personally take him on a tour of the beauty spots.
The Minister of State will be aware of the report in The Irish Times on 8 May last on two locations in west Cork, namely Castletownbere, which has a population of 1,300, and Castletownshend, which has a population of 450. In these towns, raw sewage is being pumped unashamedly into their harbours on a daily basis. In 2018, this is totally unacceptable. While Irish Water was to build a water treatment plant for Castletownbere, I understand that this will not now be completed until 2021. There were no previous plans for a similar water treatment plant in Castletownshend, but there is now an agreement to provide one by 2021. In the meantime, a culvert on the beach carries sewage directly into the sea. Following a prosecution for failing to carry out improvements at the respective harbours, Irish Water has received a mere slap on the wrist in the form of a fine. These are two of the most picturesque locations in west Cork and they rely heavily on tourism. The areas are becoming increasingly popular, in part due to their beautiful beaches. I vouch personally for their beauty and would give anything to be there this evening. To make matters worse, oysters from the harbour, which may be eaten raw in normal course, must be treated before consumption. This adds to the work and decreases the profits of those involved in the industry.
That the breach of waste water regulations is being tolerated in any circumstance is alarming, but Irish Water is being granted a so-called "grace period" of two years, which is another matter. It is unacceptable. Environmental protection figures advise that between 2000 and 2010, €270 million was invested annually in waste water infrastructure.
Between 2011 and 2013 there was a drop of 50% in investment. Although between 2014 and 2015 Irish Water increased the investment in wastewater infrastructure by 22% to €166 million, this was substantially lower than the levels under a Fianna Fáil Government. From 2016 to 2021, the remaining period of Irish Water's business plan, it is ramping up investment to spend an average of €326 million per year on wastewater infrastructure.
This investment must be followed through as a matter of priority and I urge that places such as Castletownbere and Castletownshend be dealt with. Other areas such as Rossmore and Shannonvale in the Clonakilty area, along with many other areas, must also be considered with regard to either providing a new wastewater plant or improving existing ones. I will contact the Minister on another occasion about those areas.