I realise the Minister of State will not have much of the detail I require in his response to me in respect of Irish Water, which is the competent authority in regard to the issue I am about to raise. I still believe this issue needs to get a hearing today. The issues raised in regard to Carrigrenan wastewater treatment plant and Belgooly in west Cork which my colleague, Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan, recently highlighted, are examples of a systemic failure in the ability of Irish Water to manage wastewater facilities in this country.
By way of background, Irish Water subcontracted the operation of the Carrigrenan wastewater treatment plan to a company called Northumbrian Water Projects, which is responsible for the running of the facility. The difficulties I, as a public representative, and the people who work and live adjacent to the plant have are the recurring issues with odour noise, in particular foul odours. When the €40 million plant was built in 2005, people were promised they would not even notice that the plant was there and that it would not be an inconvenience. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Since 2014, when I was elected as a county councillor, I have consistently raised the issues at the plant and have regularly logged numerous complaints, including my own, as advised by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the local authority at the time. A number of local people have also done the same. After I requested that the EPA carry out an on-site odour survey last week, it detected issues around and on the site. It called into the plant where it also detected issues.
On foot of this incident, I requested that Irish Water supply me, as it is mandated to do in its licence, with the number and nature of the complaints it receives annually. Three weeks later, I have yet to receive a response from Irish Water. Thankfully, the EPA has given me its records. Those records, which were supplied to it by Irish Water, indicated that there were no odour complaints in 2018, 2019 or 2020 and only one noise complaint in 2019.
As I mentioned at the outset, I have submitted a number of complaints over the past few years and these obviously have not been recorded by Irish Water as it is statutorily mandated to do. Irish Water is, in this regard, conveying a complete disregard for me and the people affected by the plant.
The bigger issue I have is that if Irish Water is not logging complaints correctly as it is meant to do, and as in the case of Carrigrennan in Little Island and the same has proved to be correct in the case of Belgooly in west Cork, in how many other areas around the country is this requirement being flouted? It is very disheartening. Carrigrennan wastewater treatment plant is one of the largest in the country. All of the development proposed for the north side of Cork city in the next few years, all the housing, industry and commercial activity, is all contingent on the smooth running of that facility. That facility has been operating in breach of its nitrate emissions since 2015, under its EPA licence, and yet nothing has been done.
Irish Water is showing a complete disregard for both public representatives and local people. It is not handling complaints about noise and odour correctly, as it is mandated to do. Is Irish Water the competent authority to be governing these wastewater treatment plants? It is showing that it is incapable of doing so. Should another competent authority step in and do that job in light of what we are seeing here from Irish Water?