Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Questions (33)

David Stanton


33. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage further to parliamentary question No. 760 of 21 April 2021, the amount of Departmental funding drawn down by Irish Water to date in 2021; his expectations for the drawing down of further funding by Irish Water; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22861/21]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Housing)

I asked the Minister a question last month about the amount of funding that Irish Water has received and he told me it received €1.4 billion. I am interested to know the amount of this funding that has been drawn down to date this year by Irish Water, his expectations for the drawing down of further funding by Irish Water and a breakdown of same, and to give us an idea of where the money is going.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Since 1 January 2014 Irish Water has had statutory responsibility for all aspects of water service planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. The prioritisation and progression of individual projects is a matter for determination by Irish Water.

As part of budget 2021, funding of over €1.4 billion was secured to support water services. This overall investment will deliver significant improvements in our public water and waste water services, support improved water supplies right across the island, including rural Ireland, and support a range of programmes delivering improved water quality in our rivers, lakes and marine areas.

Over €1.3 billion in voted Exchequer funding is to be provided to Irish Water in respect of domestic water service provision in 2021 of which €692 million is capital funding and €614 million is current. By the end of April 2021 Irish Water has drawn down €223.25 million of which €153.5 million relates to current funding and €69.75 million relates to capital funding.

I expect that Irish water will draw down this full provision in 2021 to continue its investment to provide clean, safe drinking water to customers, to treat and return waste water to the environment and improve water quality in our river catchments and our estuaries.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. There does seem to be an issue in that many people feel that Irish Water has a shortage of money. All the questions before now have been about housing, and I am sure the Minister of State realises that in many parts of the country housing development is frozen in many towns. In Mitchelstown in my own constituency, and in Midleton and Castlemartyr, no new houses can be built now because Irish Water does not have the infrastructure, and maybe does not have the funding either. Has an analysis been undertaken across the country to find out what towns cannot actually build houses because of waste water infrastructure deficits? If the Minister of State does not have that information, he might give it to me at some stage. What is the timetable for rectifying these? As I said, there is a sense that Irish Water does not have the funding. There are some very good people in there. In my own area of Youghal, Cobh, Cork Harbour and Carrigtwohill, there is amazing work being done with new waste water treatment plants but we need now to unlock the land. Local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, funding has been made available in some areas, to allow housing to continue.

I wish to highlight the same issue in my own area. I thank the Minister of State for meeting representatives from my area about the Irish Water difficulty in Dún Laoghaire and the waste network that needs urgent upgrading. I thank him for providing the report on what Irish Water is doing to identify the scale of the issue and replace it, but it is a really urgent problem right across the coast of Dublin Bay. I know the Minister is aware of it and we have an awful lot of work to do to try to upgrade it.

The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien and I met with SOS Dublin Bay last week to discuss some of these issues. We will get a response from Irish Water on that.

To reassure Deputy Stanton, the investment by this Government will be significant over its lifetime and that is reflected in the 2021 allocation and the €87 million that was invested in Irish Water through the July stimulus last year. The projected capital investment in 2021 is in the region of €900 million overall, and within that Irish Water will deliver €103 million of new connection infrastructure to facilitate housing and commercial development. This is €103 million of expenditure which is funded externally. The funding to be provided to Irish Water is vital to maintain its asset base and current levels of service to ensure compliance and growth and to deliver improvements in drinking water quality and capacity, to manage waste water and protect and enhance the environment, and to support growth and economic development for Ireland. It will deliver projects and programmes targeted at achieving Irish Water outcomes and outputs, including the removal of projects from the EPA remedial action list, and addressing agglomerations under the urban waste water treatment directive.

I recognise the huge investment and amount of work being done by the hard-working people in Irish Water but that does not take away from the fact that there are towns such as Mitchelstown, Midleton and Castlemartyr in my constituency and maybe other towns around the country that are frozen and locked out of housing development because of a lack of infrastructure. Will the Minister of State prioritise those? Has any analysis been undertaken on towns like that across the country where they are locked out. I know the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, is listening to this. In some instances the land and developers are available and LIHAF funding has been provided; it is all ready to go and the only thing stopping it is the water infrastructure. No developer will take a chance on building houses - they will not be let by the local authority and rightly so - unless they are guaranteed a connection. They cannot get a connection if the water infrastructure is not up to speed. I ask the Minister of State to have a look at this and to assist and support Irish Water on this. It might not be all about money but there is a feeling in some instances that it might be.

I wish to bring to the Minister of State's attention that Irish Water is failing in its duty of care on the management of its assets in Drogheda in County Louth and that for the first time ever, the EPA has issued an instruction to Irish Water that if it does not manage its resources properly, it will be prosecuted. There is a stench emanating from the waste water treatment plant. One of the three settlement tanks has been shut down. There is septic sewage coming in from east Meath because it is not being taken out of the pipes. I ask that the Minister of State meet with Irish Water as a matter of urgency to discuss how it will deal with this. It is a shame and a disgrace that an entity that I was part of setting up is treating my town so badly.

I assure the Deputy that the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, the Minister of State, Deputy Burke and I are committed to working with Irish Water over the lifetime of this Government to deliver this project. As I stated already, the removal of projects from the EPA remedial action list is a key priority of Irish Water. We are happy to take up the Deputy's request to meet with Irish Water on Drogheda, as that is important.