Adjournment Matter. - Meath Water Supply.

I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. If the Chair thought, having regard to the number of occasions on which I and my colleague Senator Fitzsimons have raised this matter, that we are not just neglected but abandoned for the past 40 years, he would be quite right. I thank the Minister and apologise for bringing her in on such a dreadful night, but I put in this motion last week and the Minister will agree with me when I give a very brief outline with regard to this problem.

I raised this matter in this House in September 1985 and outlined the history of this water scheme. There is no need to go into great detail. I mentioned at that time the grave and urgent need for a proper and clean water supply for the Oldcastle to Crossakeel area. I outlined the problems in relation to the scheme as it existed then and still exists there. I stressed the necessity on many grounds, for the implementation of the phase to which I am referring tonight. I will not go into detail again as to the many reasons why this schene should be implemented, but the existing scheme was then inadequate and obsolete. As reluctant as I am to make this type of statement either here or at county council meetings, we have now reached the stage where the health of the people in the Oldcastle area is at risk.

The development of the area is seriously curtailed because the scheme has not been implemented. Furthermore, since I first raised the issue in 1985 there has been a further deterioration in the existing scheme. Breakdowns are commonplace. They are becoming frequent in the supply line from Lough Creevagh which is the source of the supply to Oldcastle. Meath County Council have lost a fortune, in money terms, dealing with these breakdowns, as the pipes on the supply line are corroded or perforated. The supply to Oldcastle is though the Lough Crew Hills and in some cases the pipeline is situated anywhere from 10 feet to 16 feet underground. Here we have the problems that when a breakdown occurs in this sandy ground the water is inclined to go down through the ground and it will not surface. Meath County Council have a very difficult problem trying to detect the breakdown and last year they had to get special equipment to try to detect it. It is an impossible situation. On the other hand people who own this land will not allow the County Council to dig at random across their land to find out where the problem is.

There is also a problem in relation to Crossakeel where one of the reservoirs is situated. Meath County Council implemented a small water scheme there many years ago, from finances raised when we were striking our own rates. Since then Crossakeel developed. There is a very good housing scheme there and every weekend they are almost completely without water because of the demand. When the Oldcastle scheme is completed there will be a reservoir in Crossakeel and that will meet all the requirements of that area. When that is completed we will have several group schemes in the area, which will supply the whole farming community. At that stage all north Meath, Cavan and part of Westmeath will be linked up with a proper and adequate water supply.

The Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Brien, gave a commitment to this House. He stated that there was no question of lack of goodwill or of finance from his Department. I am not placing any blame whatsoever on the Minister or the Government. All the relevant data, which the Minister referred to, have been submitted to the Department. The problems we had with regard to safe acquisition for the reservoirs are completely ironed out. Will the Minister now give a commitment that the scheme will go for tender and that the work will commence early in 1987.

I am delighted to see a Minister here who lives at a place called Millbrook, where courtesy of myself we extended a pipeline some years ago, to ensure that she would have a nice water supply. We did not form a group scheme at that time. At that time we had a bit more common sense in local authorities and the supply is coming direct to Millbrook. I am sure this Minister will agree that we have fierce problems. There is green algae coming through the taps, four or five times a year. There is one area in the town where the water diverts and flows down hill and all the dirt, algae and the wriggly things I mentioned here before are coming out through the taps and taps are getting blocked. It is costing Meath County Council an absolute fortune. Week after week and month after month they are out digging, if it is not the public road where the water is oozing up, it is out on land to try to find the leak.

We discovered a leak recently which was estimated had been in there for nine or ten years and the water was flowing down through the ground. Meath County Council were very perturbed at that time, should a fire occur in Oldcastle as there was no pressure whatsoever and we should have had good pressure. We discovered another leak outside the town that could have been there six or seven years. We have had low pressure, bad supply and an antiquated system. We have everything in the pipeline now and I am asking the Minister to give us the go ahead to go for tender. As the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien said, there is no lack of good will and no lack of money in the Department. All the data have been submitted to the Department and I hope that we will have a very satisfactory solution to this question and bring some hope back to the people of Oldcastle and North Meath.

Senator Lynch has championed this cause and has made his plea because of his commitment to this area. He has made a very good job of it. Each Member of this House is aware of the situation and there is nothing I can add to what Senator Lynch has already said. By bringing the matter once more before the House I hope something will be done about it in the near future. There is no point in going over any of the matters as Senator Lynch has explained them very well.

The scheme which has been completed in the Lough Bane area has been a major success and has an extension to Kells. The people of Kells are very pleased with the situation. The councillors there have paid tribute to the engineers and to all those engaged on that scheme. In rising to make those few comments and being from the town of Kells I am simply giving moral support to Senator Lynch's cause.

Before replying to the Senators I welcome Miss Deirdre Lane to the Seanad where she now occupies the position of Assistant Clerk. It is the first time a woman has held this position. I wish her long and happy associations which she no doubt will have with the Seanad.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Let me say that I have more than a passing interest in what Senator Lynch has said because I have some very modest property outside Oldcastle. There is not a more pleasant or hospitable place in Ireland than Oldcastle. It is a place of hardworking and very nice people.

Try to see Kells sometime.

Kells also, but I think Oldcastle in the past has been badly treated.

And Killarney, too.

Oldcastle is not mentioned as often. Honestly I do not know about the wriggly little things that come out of the tap. I have not seen them. I am not aware of anything like that. The scheme which I had put in was very efficiently effected. Having said those few words, I would like to say that I am here to deputise for the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Boland, and to speak on his behalf to the Senator's motion.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address this House on a subject which, through the efforts of Senator Lynch, was aired in this House on a previous occasion in September 1985. However, before I go into the details of the scheme it is appropriate to place it in the context of sanitary services activity throughout the country and in County Meath.

The period since this Government took office has seen the most sustained capital injection ever into sanitary services, a vital element of infrastructure which has added benefit of creating immediate employment in the provision of schemes and sowing the seeds for long term employment by opening up land for future development. In the four years, 1983 to 1986, the Government have provided more than £363 million to sanitary authorities for their programmes, 50 per cent more than the £231 million in the previous four years. The increased investment enabled the backlog of fully planned schemes held in the Department to be cleared for the first time ever and resulted in the completion of about 180 major schemes valued at over £256 million. It is an earnest of the Government's commitment to maintaining activity at a high level in future years that 65 tenders worth £41 million were approved in 1986 and local authorities were authorised to invite tenders for further major schemes worth £30 million.

The capital provided for the construction of new sanitary services schemes is not, of course, the only cost to central Government of the overall programme. The Department also pay a subsidy to local authorities in respect of their annual sanitary services loan charges on capital borrowings. Subsidy payments increased in line with the extra activity, amounting to £147 million in the last four years, an increase of 150 per cent on payments from 1979 to 1982.

I am glad to say that County Meath received a substantial share of the sanitary services funds provided in recent years. On the capital side, the county received funds of £8.47 million from 1983 to 1986 compared to £2.27 million in the four preceding years. In addition, subsidies totalling £871,000 were paid to Meath sanitary authorities this year, compared to £370,000 in 1982.

These allocations enabled six major schemes to be provided in recent years including Stage 4 of the east Meath regional water supply scheme, Stage 1 of the Kells-Oldcastle water supply scheme and sewerage schemes in Kells and Mornington. Meath County Council are also providing a sewerage scheme in Ratoath and are augmenting the existing water supply in east Meath.

These few statistics clearly indicate the substantial progress made both nationally and in Meath in the past few years to meet major sanitary services requirements.

I have just mentioned that Stage 1 of the Kells-Oldcastle water supply scheme was recently completed by Meath County Council at a cost of about £2.4 million. This scheme involved pumping water from Lough Bane to a reservoir at Seekin from which a supply gravitates via Crossakeel to Kells. The proposals for Stage 2 of the scheme comprise a trunk main from Skerrys Cross Roads near Seefin to a new reservoir at Oldcastle and thence into the town, and also the provision of a reservoir and a booster at Crossakeel. The council have set out in very clear terms the deficiencies of the existing water supply in Oldcastle and its environs and I am glad to be able to say that substantial progress has been made on the scheme since it was last debated here in September 1985. Revised contract documents for the work were submitted to the Department of the Environment for approval in December 1985 and the Minister for the Environment confirmed a compulsory purchase order for the Crossakeel reservoir site on 25 June 1986.

Last month the council confirmed that all the necessary statutory procedures, land and wayleave acquisitions for the scheme have been completed. This clears the way for the final examination of the proposals by the Department of the Environment prior to authorising the council to invite tenders for the work. As this is a major scheme and will be expensive, it must be examined thoroughly to ensure that the scheme as designed will encompass all the work that is required to ensure an adequate supply for this proposed area.

The Department of the Environment are also examining a recent request from the council to provide the boosting equipment at Crossakeel in advance of the remainder of work in order to serve high level areas in and around Crossakeel. These examinations are proceeding as quickly as possible but the House will appreciate it is not possible to say at this stage when they will be concluded and the council authorised to invite tenders for the works. However, Senator Lynch can rest assured that the Minister for the Environment will take his views on the urgency of the scheme fully into account when considering the release of this scheme for tendering.

The Seanad adjourned at 9 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Thursday, 15 January 1987.