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Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 27 November 2008

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Questions (8, 9, 10)

Joe Carey

Question:

8 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to address the capacity flaws in the Ringsend waste water treatment plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43119/08]

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Lucinda Creighton

Question:

18 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take on foot of the finding of the independent report into the Ringsend waste water treatment plant that the capacity of the plant was miscalculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42976/08]

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Lucinda Creighton

Question:

33 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take on foot of the finding of the independent report into the Ringsend waste water treatment plant that the permitted boundary odour level in the operating contract is 100 bps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42975/08]

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Oral answers (9 contributions) (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 18 and 33 together.

I commissioned this independent examination of the design parameters of the Ringsend waste water treatment plant to determine whether they adequately addressed existing and projected loads. I was particularly concerned about the odour problems beyond the site boundary since the plant was first commissioned.

The report finds that the Ringsend plant has improved water quality in Dublin Bay to such an extent that Dollymount Strand qualifies for a blue flag. The plant is producing a high quality sludge and is generating a substantial proportion of its own energy requirements on site. The report concludes that higher levels of commuter, tourism and commercial activity than were anticipated when the plant was being designed would largely explain the difference between the design and actual loading on the plant. It also finds that the odour standard prescribed in the contract documents for the new plant did not reflect the requirements set out in the environmental impact statement.

Dublin City Council was the contracting authority for the construction of the plant and is responsible for managing it. The findings of the report are, therefore, matters for the city council in the first instance. I have, accordingly, referred the report to the council and I understand it is now being examined in detail. Some of the report's recommendations also relate to other local authorities within the Dublin region and the report has been also sent to those authorities for examination. The report concludes that the odour equipment being installed at the plant should eliminate the nuisance to nearby residential areas and that the treatment plant now consistently meets required effluent standards.

Planning for an expansion of the Ringsend plant to its ultimate design capacity of approximately 2.2 million population equivalent, to meet increased demand and to cater for future development, is already under way. Dublin City Council has appointed consultants and work is about to start on drawing up design proposals.

My colleague, Deputy Creighton, whom the Minister knows well, has been very vocal on this issue and we support her quest to ensure that people are held responsible for this fiasco. People in Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount have had to put up with the foul smells over the years. Nobody has stood up and accepted responsibility for the problem. The Minister, Dublin City and Council and the Government have passed the buck. The people want the report to be made public. Will the Minister respond to that? The people deserve to know what went wrong in this plant and they need to know corrective action will be taken. What steps will the Minister take to fix the problem to ensure people's quality of life is improved?

Do the Deputies opposite listen to my responses? I said the odour problem has been dealt with. I will add a little extra.

The Minister might have blocked sinuses.

I do not think so. Deputies must listen to my replies. I made a settlement of €35 million available and the Deputy says we are not accepting responsibility. I commissioned this independent report, which shows the equipment being installed is fit for purpose and will eliminate the smell. Deputy Ciarán Lynch's colleague knows nothing about the smell because she does not live in the area. I live in the area and I have had to deal with that. It led to a deterioration in quality of life for residents of the area. Before the last election I said I would deal with the problem and would find out exactly what went wrong. We have done exactly that in this report and we have dealt with it, unlike the Deputy's colleague who can talk all she likes.

There is an urgent challenge for the Minister to live up to the promises he made before the last general election to deliver safe water and sewage treatment plants not alone to Ringsend but to all parts of the country. There is a serious problem of pollution in our waterways. For example, there is a serious pollution threat to the Shannon and its tributaries in my area because of inadequate treatment plants. This matter needs to be dealt with.

That is very interesting and worthy of a question in its own right.

Why did the Minister sanction the payment to the ABA consortium considering it did not do the correct work? It should have ensured there was no odour in the first instance and that the quality of life of the people in Irishtown, Ringsend and Sandymount would not be affected. That was the basic standard. They and the Minister should have known the population of Dublin would increase and extra capacity would be needed at that plant. Can the Minister confirm that he will make the report public so his constituents and the people of Dublin can get the answers they long deserve on this fiasco?

The report is already available on a website. Have the Deputy and his colleagues not read it? The Deputy is asking me to make the report public, but it already is in the public domain. He should do his homework. Of course I knew the population would increase, but I was not in Government or on Dublin City Council. I was on the local authority and I made amendments because it was a reserve function. In the body of the report, although not in its conclusions, it is clearly stated that the nitrogen removal recommended unanimously by the elected representatives across all parties was ignored by the city council. That is a grave disappointment to me.

The design, build and operate contractor made a claim for additional final contract costs of €171.8 million arising from the disputed items including changes in electrical equipment standards and the higher load to the plant. Under the circumstances the €35 million I managed to negotiate down to was a very good cost saving measure and dealt with the odour problem, which was the main issue for residents of the area.

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