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 Header Item Heritage Sites (Continued)
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes Expenditure

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Josepha Madigan: Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan] As such, there is an extensive protection, as I outlined, for archaeological heritage in the State without a need for acquisition of sites, except in the most exceptional of cases. Acquisition of the whole of High Island would require considerable resource commitment, not just on the part of the Department but also from the Office of Public Works. Whether or not the island is privately owned, my Department will continue to protect the national monument there. It should be said that access to the island is extremely difficult and therefore any acquisition would bring very little benefit in terms of access to the monuments for visitors.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Expenditure

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Minister of State may be aware that Irish Water and the Government is proposing to locate a regional sewage plant on a 40 acre site at Clonshaugh in north County Dublin. The planned development will cost €1 billion. It is four times the size of Croke Park and has an outflow pipe which is located off Portmarnock through a special area of conservation at the Baldoyle-Portmarnock estuary. According to the plans that have been submitted and which are now with An Bord Pleanála, sewage will only be treated to the minimum secondary level. At the very least, my colleague, Deputy Haughey, and I, along with Councillor Eoghan O'Brien and the 14,000 residents of the area, insist that the highest levels of modern treatment are applied. I note that the size of the plant has been reduced from around 800,000 or 900,000 personal equivalent, PE, to 500,000 PE. This is due to the fact that there have been over 14,000 observations through the public consultation process, which has actually been useful.

I held a meeting with Irish Water last June in which I was informed that its priority is the continuing upgrade of the Ringsend facility, bringing new technologies to that plant and increasing capacity there. Does the Minister of State have an update on that? I, along with many residents, are particularly opposed to this type of development and believe that a series of localised plants is the way forward. There are already 15 plants in Fingal which process the waste where it is actually generated. We do not want to go down the road of a €1 billion to €1.4 billion project, with an orbital sewer with a massive regional wastewater treatment plant. Our main objections are on the grounds of environmental damage and potential damage, damage to the quality of life for residents in Clonshaugh, Portmarnock and the surrounding areas and damage to the fishing and horticultural sector in the area. The cost to the taxpayer is also fundamental. I have repeatedly asked for a cost-benefit analysis on this project. Well before Deputy English became the Minister of State I asked Deputy Howlin, who was Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, to carry out a cost-benefit analysis on this plant. He promised that would be done. My understanding is that has not been done. I know that the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is not here today, but I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy English, is here as a representative of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Can he inform the House how much has been spent on this project to date? It is important that we keep an eye on large capital projects. The Government will understand how important that is when we take into account the debacle of the national children's hospital. We want to ensure that, whatever happens with the development of additional wastewater treatment plant facilities in the area, be it the large regional plants we do not support or the smaller, localised ones that would serve 80,000 or 90,000 PE, we have a handle on the costs.

I would be greatly obliged if the Minister of State could advise what has been spent to date and what the Government's plans are for the Irish Water strategic funding plan 2019 to 2024. Has the Government allocated further funding in order to bring this plant to the construction phase, bearing in mind that An Bord Pleanála has granted residents, myself, Deputy Haughey and Councillors Eoghan O'Brien and Seán Paul Mahon an oral hearing on 20 March? I would like to know what the expenditure has been so far, what capital funding allocation has been made for this year and if there are figures available for next year.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I will try to answer some of the questions raised by the Deputy. I do not have all of the details he has asked for because some of the issues he has raised are different from what was initially proposed to be discussed. I have no problem in getting further information for the Deputy and if we have to organise a meeting with the Deputy, the Department and Irish Water I will be happy to facilitate it. We are an open book on this issue.

The greater Dublin drainage project involves the development of a new regional wastewater treatment facility at Clonshaugh and associated drainage infrastructure to serve the growing population of the north Dublin area. The current estimated cost of delivering the project is in the region of €500 million over the full life cycle of the project, including the planning stage. I do not have a breakdown of all the costs for the Deputy; I know he wanted the expenditure for the project so far, including planning costs. I do not have them, but I can try and get them at a later stage.

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local level. Irish Water, as a single national water services authority, takes a strategic, nationwide approach to asset planning and investment and meeting customer requirements. Irish Water delivers its services in accordance with its water services strategic plan published in October 2015. This sets out a high-level strategy over 25 years to ensure the provision of clean, safe drinking water, effective management of wastewater, environmental protection and support for economic and social development. The first national water services policy statement, prepared in line with the Water Services Acts, which the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, launched on 21 May 2018, outlines a clear direction to strategic planning and decision making on water and wastewater services in Ireland. It identifies key policy objectives and priorities for the delivery of water and wastewater services in Ireland over the period to 2025. It provides the context within which necessary funding and investment plans by Irish Water are framed and agreed.

On 7 November 2018, the Minister approved Irish Water’s strategic funding plan for 2019 to 2024 which sets out Irish Water’s multi-annual strategic funding requirement of €11 billion to 2024. This comprises €6.1 billion investment in infrastructure and assets and €4.9 billion in operating costs. This significant multibillion euro investment programme is to ensure the continued operation, repair and upgrading of the country’s water and wastewater infrastructure to support social and economic development across the State and continued care of the water environment.

Irish Water's strategic funding plan is also subject to economic regulatory review by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, which will consider the efficiency of its investment proposals. The strategic funding plan sets out the financial plan for capital investments to support Irish Water’s strategic objectives in order to deliver improvements to water services. I understand from Irish Water that it made an application for strategic infrastructure development for the greater Dublin drainage project to An Bord Pleanála on 20 June 2018. An Bord Pleanála then held a period of statutory public consultation and it is anticipated that the board will commence an oral hearing on the project shortly. I gather that the Deputy has been involved in that process and is participating fully on that.

The Deputy references a cost-benefit analysis. I assume that will be part of an oral hearing discussion. Generally, when these projects are brought forward, alternative options have to be considered. Costs and environmental impacts are considered in that, so I imagine that issue will be dealt with there. I will certainly pursue that further for the Deputy in the meantime and provide any extra information I can on that too.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I know the Minister of State is not the direct line Minister for this project, but I have to say with respect that the question has not been answered at all. I asked for the costs incurred to date. The Dáil should receive an answer to that question. This is a large capital project and the only cost I was ever able to get an estimate for was in the region of €1 billion to €1.4 billion. That is a lot of money. We need to get a handle on the costs that have been incurred to date. I remain absolutely opposed to this type of development and I really do believe that the Government should go back and look at what it has proposed. The proposal is now four, five or six years in existence. It proposes to treat waste to the very basic standard of secondary treatment rather than tertiary. The model we are proceeding with is flawed. Thousands of residents in the area agree. These people are not approaching this matter from a "not in my back yard" position, but rather as residents who already have 15 wastewater treatment plants in the area. This plant is effectively to become a treatment plant for all of the waste in the greater Dublin area. The waste will be piped through an orbital sewer around the M50 and into a wastewater treatment plant at Clonshaugh - a 50-acre site - and then out through a special area of conservation from the Baldoyle estuary. One could not make this up. This would not be planned in this way now. I am calling for a real cost-benefit analysis.

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