Water Services Provision

Questions (169)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

169. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which it is expected to provide for the enhanced storage, treatment and transmission of domestic drinking water in the short, medium and long term; the extent to which this meets identified targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45313/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The overall strategy of investment in water services to date has been to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives for public domestic water supplies is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme. The current Programme runs to the end of 2013 and includes contracts to address deficiencies in the quality of supply, to improve the overall capacity of the system and an accelerated programme of mains rehabilitation. The Programme also provides for the advancement of a further range of schemes through planning, for progression to construction in future investment cycles.

In order to create efficiencies, improve service delivery and achieve cost savings in the delivery of water services, the Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a new State-owned national water authority to take over responsibility for managing and supervising investment in water services infrastructure from 1 January 2014. Irish Water will be responsible for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure from 1 January 2014, and is currently preparing a Capital Investment Plan for 2014-15. This Plan will include taking account of the transition of projects that are included in the current Water Services Investment Plan.

Fire Service Issues

Questions (170)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

170. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which part-time or whole-time fire services currently exist throughout the country; the extent to which it is expected to develop the service in the future on a part-time or whole-time basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45314/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The provision of a fire services in local authority areas, including the establishment and maintenance of fire brigades, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 2001. My Department supports fire authorities through the setting of general policy, provision of training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters and the provision of capital funding.

The provision of fire services by local authorities is based on a risk management approach which involves an analysis of the nature of the fire hazards and the incidence and extent of fires which occur as well as the fire protection measures in place. The fire services in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford are staffed on a full-time basis; Drogheda and Dundalk have a combined full-time and retained service, while fire services in all other communities are provided by the retained system, which operates on a call-out basis when required.

Earlier in 2013 I published as national policy the document Keeping Communities safe (KCS), which is intended to keep fire safety and fire services in Ireland in line with international best practice. KCS includes, inter alia, the rationalisation of structures to deliver effective fire services. This entails fire services remaining within local authorities, but service delivery is to be reshaped from the current 30 fire services to 21 – 14 single fire authorities and 7 shared services.

KCS is based on a risk management approach, which addresses the critical elements of fire prevention, protection and response. In that vein, each fire service is currently undertaking an initial risk categorisation process for its functional area. In order to provide a comprehensive and effective fire service to the community, section 26 of the Fire Services Act provides that it is a reserved function of local authorities to adopt fire and emergency operations plans indicating the provision made in respect of organisation, appliances, equipment, fire stations, training, operational procedure and any such matters as may be relevant. The risk categorisation process referred to above will help inform local decision making in this regard.

Water Pollution

Question No. 173 answered with Question No. 147.

Questions (171, 172)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

171. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which river or waterway pollution has been reported or detected in each of the past four years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45315/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

172. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the degree to which monitoring continues to take place in respect of air and water pollution; if particular trends have become noticeable arising from same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45317/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together.

In respect of monitoring of water quality, the EPA, local authorities, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Marine Institute all monitor rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters, and groundwater quality under the Water Framework Directive on a three-year cycle. This extensive monitoring programme provides a good overview of current water quality and trends as they develop.

Water quality trends emerging in recent years include a notable decline in the incidence of serious pollution events from 39 sites in the 2004-2006 period, to 20 sites in the 2007-2009 period and currently down to 11 sites. There has also been a stabilisation in the length of river channel regarded as unpolluted, at approximately 71% of the length surveyed. However, the period has also been marked by a steady decline in the number of river sites at high ecological status.

The 2013 surveys are currently under way and a new national update for 2010-2012 will be available by early 2014. In the meantime, this year the EPA has published regional reports covering the south east, Louth/Monaghan and Galway/Mayo/Sligo, including information from 2012 monitoring.  The EPA and local authorities respond to water quality incidents and complaints on an ongoing basis. Details of recent incidents are available on the EPA website and can be accessed at: http://www.epa.ie/news/incidents/recent. Additional information is available at: http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/indicators/00061_EPA_SoE_2012.pdf. Comprehensive reports on water quality are published every three years by the EPA and are available for download at http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/water/waterqua.

The ambient air quality monitoring programme in Ireland is carried out to meet the requirements of EU Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, also known as the CAFÉ Directive. The Directive requires that certain minimum levels of monitoring are conducted for the purpose of assessment and management of air quality. The EPA has responsibility for the monitoring of air quality in Ireland, and monitors a range of atmospheric pollutants based on data obtained from the 29 monitoring stations that form the national ambient air quality network.

The EPA also publishes an annual report on air quality, based primarily on the monitoring requirements of the CAFÉ Directive. The most recent report, Air Quality in Ireland 2012 – Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality, was published in September 2013 and provides an assessment of air quality in Ireland for 2012, compared to the CAFÉ Directive standards as well as, for the first time, assessments in relation to more stringent World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines for the protection of human health.

Downward trends have been identified for many pollutants and Ireland currently meets all EU standards for air quality but exceeds WHO air quality guidelines for particulate matter. Particulate matter levels in Ireland are of concern, particularly during the winter heating season, when people's choice of fuel can impact directly on the air quality in their locality and can thus impact on health. To maintain our good standard of air quality and ensure that in the future our air will be healthy and clean, Ireland must continue to implement and enforce the ban on bituminous coal. Households and businesses should use more efficient methods to burn fuel and shift from solid fuel to cleaner alternatives, while also striving to reduce the demand for energy consumption.

Levels of nitrogen oxides (NOX) at traffic-impacted city centre areas may also be a challenge in the future. Ireland must reduce traffic emissions through implementing policies to reduce travel demand, increase the use of alternatives to the private car such as cycling, walking, and public transport and improve the efficiencies of motorised transport.

Question No. 173 answered with Question No. 147.

Local Authority Leases

Questions (174)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

174. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of properties currently let or leased to tenants on local authority housing waiting lists and or other; the extent to which such numbers have fluctuated over the past six years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45319/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department does not hold any current information on the number of tenants on local authority waiting lists.

I directed all local authorities to prepare a summary of social housing assessments carried out in their areas as at 7 May 2013. The results of this assessment, when available, will detail the number of households on waiting lists in each local authority by a range of categories, including current tenure.

The last summary assessment carried out, as at 31 March, 2011, found that there were 69,937 households in private rented accommodation. The full results of this assessment are available on my Department's website www.environ.ie and the Housing Agency's website www.housing.ie. The current assessment is the first to be carried out since the commencement of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations on 1 April 2011, which introduced a standardised system for assessing applicants for social housing support. The results will not therefore be directly comparable to the results of previous assessments.

My Department does not hold information on the allocation of social housing supports to households on the waiting list, whether to leased accommodation or other accommodation provided by the local authority.

The Social Housing Leasing Initiative (SHLI) is a form of social housing support that, along with the more traditional forms of support, is provided by local authorities to meet the housing needs of individual households. To the end of October 2013, 4,319 housing units have been provided under SHLI since it was introduced in 2009.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

Questions (175, 176)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

175. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which his Department has adequate resources available to meet the requirements of the various local authorities under the small or group sewerage or water schemes; the degree to which he expects to be in a position to provide such funding in the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45320/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

176. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which his Department has adequate resources available to meet the requirements of Kildare County Council under the small or group sewerage or water schemes; the degree to which he expects to be in a position to provide such funding in the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45321/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 176 together.

Funding is currently provided under my Department's Rural Water Programme towards group water schemes, group sewerage schemes, small public water and wastewater scheme works and some miscellaneous grants. The allocation for the Programme in 2013 is €39.6 m.

The allocation for the Programme for 2014 will be €27.7 m. The amount being provided in 2014 reflects the fact that responsibility for the small public water and wastewater scheme works element of the Programme will transfer to Irish Water in 2014. The primary focus of Irish water will be on the delivery of services to customers on the public water and wastewater networks. My Department will remain responsible for the overall policy, and funding where appropriate, of the non-public sector, including the group water sector. The funding that will be provided in 2014 under the Rural Water Programme will continue to fund group water schemes, group sewerage schemes, and some miscellaneous grants.