Water and Sewerage Schemes

I welcome the Minister of State. Loughrea is a burgeoning and vibrant town and I am sure the Minister of State may have travelled through it on her way to Galway. It needs to have its water supply upgraded urgently. Not alone is Loughrea, a burgeoning and growing town, supplied by that water supply but it also supplies a number of communities in its hinterland. One such community is Kilrickle, which is situated on the old N6. It is hard to believe that in 2010 this village has no clean reliable public water supply. In 2004, Deputy Michael Kitt, a former Member of this House, asked when phase 2 of the Loughrea scheme would be developed, which in turn would supply Kilrickle. He was told in reply that it was intended to commence construction in 2006 at a cost of more than €35 million. This did not happen. The Government then produced a water services investment programme in 2007 in which it was indicated that the scheme would go to construction in 2009 but that did not happen either. In compiling the water services investment programme the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government relies on the expertise and local knowledge of local authorities, rightly so. Galway County Council prepared such an assessment of needs before the publication of the most recent water services investment programme. Of the 11 schemes which the council believed should receive priority in County Galway, it listed the scheme in Loughrea at No. 5. It also indicated that it would be in a position to begin delivering on the scheme in 2010 and that all of the information sought by the Department had been supplied by it. It would be ready to go to tender on the project within a matter of weeks. In identifying the scheme in Loughrea as a priority it pointed out that water for the domestic and commercial use of the population of Kilreekil would have to be transported by tanker during the dry season, having been unsuccessful in finding a suitable source of drinking water in the area.

A briefing note prepared by Galway County Council management for Oireachtas Members in east Galway concluded that it had been an expectation of the residents of Kilreekil to receive a safe and secure supply of potable water, a basic requirement, for almost ten years. The Loughrea regional water supply scheme has been designed and the required documents have been prepared to include this expectation. While it is accepted that emerging priorities must be given precedence in the current climate, the meeting of such a basic requirement, coupled with the advancement of the contract, should be ample reason to include the contract in the current water services investment programme. However, it has not been included. Despite having been included in the programme for the past seven years, it has now been taken out.

I refer to a letter to former Deputy Joe Callanan from the then Minister, Deputy Dick Roche, in October 2006 in which he stated:

I know this is a very important scheme locally, especially for the people of Kilreekil, and my Department will be asking Galway County Council to ensure that it is progressed on towards construction stage as quickly as possible. I know you will be glad to learn there has been concrete progress. My Department and I will do everything we can to solve the very pressing water supply problems in the area.

In August 2006 the then Minister also wrote to Joe Callanan to say: "This job is scheduled to commence in 2007 under my Department's water service investment programme". In fact, just before the general election in 2007, the then Minister actually visited the village of Kilreekil when he spoke to homeowners and business owners and once again assured them that they would have a water supply very soon. They still have no supply and now have no hope whatsoever of receiving one because the Government has chosen, for some very strange reason unknown to me and Galway County Council management, to remove the project completely from the water services investment programme.

I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley.

I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to set out the current position on the Loughrea regional water supply scheme. As he is aware, the water services investment programme 2010-12 provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Galway. The Loughrea water treatment plant project is included in the new programme as a scheme to advance through planning. The new programme prioritises projects that target environmental compliance issues and support economic and employment growth as envisaged in the Government's policy document, Building Ireland's Smart Economy — A Framework for Sustainable Economic Revival. Galway County Council's proposals for upgrading the Loughrea water treatment plant are considered to reflect programme priorities as the supply is on the EPA's remedial action list and was, therefore, included in the programme. However, the proposed extension of the network, envisaged as part of the Loughrea regional water supply scheme, was not included in the programme as it relates solely to the expansion of the existing supply. The envisaged expansion would include the provision of the trunk main to serve Kilreekil. Galway County Council submitted a revised preliminary report on the overall Loughrea regional water supply scheme to the Department in February. As part of its ongoing assessment of the report, the Department also examined the council's most recent cost estimates, submitted in August, for its proposals to provide a water supply from Loughrea to Kilreekil. The Department will issue its decision on the report, including the cost estimates, to the council very soon. However, although upgrading the treatment plant is a prerequisite in providing a water supply for Kilreekil village, the council's proposals to connect Kilreekil with the Loughrea regional water supply scheme are not part of the project at this time.

A review process has been included as one of a number of new measures in the water services investment programme 2010-12, under which the programme will be reviewed and updated annually to allow for any re-prioritisation required. The format and timing of the review process has still to be decided by the Department, but it is anticipated that it will be conducted following one year of operation of the new programme. Although Galway County Council has already requested the Department to consider the inclusion of the trunk main to Kilreekil element of the Loughrea regional water supply scheme in the programme, the council will need to reassess its Kilreekil proposals following the Department's assessment of its revised preliminary report on the entire scheme which is due to issue shortly. In the light of this, the council can further consider the specific proposals to be submitted in the context of the review process next year.

The Minister can assure the Senator that the Department will continue to work with Galway County Council to ensure matters relating to the Loughrea regional water supply scheme are advanced as far as practicable during the period of the new programme.

Unfortunately, we are not still not a whit down the road towards the provision of a water supply for either Loughrea or Kilreekil. Is the Government not ashamed that it has given assurances over and over again to a community? Such assurances were written by the Minister and given to representatives of the community in August 2006. A scheme is required urgently but in 2010 the Government has decided to pull the rug completely from under the community by withdrawing the scheme from the water services investment programme. There is nothing in the reply to assure me or the people of Loughrea and Kilreekil that the Government has any intention of restoring the scheme to the water services investment programme.

The Seanad adjourned at 2.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 November 2010.