Friday 19 January 2018

Reilly re-opens sewage row with 'clean water' comment

A protest sign in Clonshaugh, north Co Dublin, the site backed by Health Minister James Reilly for a 50-acre sewage plant
A protest sign in Clonshaugh, north Co Dublin, the site backed by Health Minister James Reilly for a 50-acre sewage plant

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

HEALTH Minister James Reilly has re-opened the controversy over the location of a huge €500m sewage treatment plant by suggesting it would have endangered "clean water" for farmers.

He came under fire for originally welcoming the fact that it had not been located in Lusk in his Dublin North constituency – which is close to his political base in Rush. But that angered other constituents living in the chosen site of Clonshaugh near Dublin Airport.

Dr Reilly's attempt to clarify his remarks has resulted in him coming under further criticism from the opposition.

He told his local 'Fingal Independent' newspaper that he was relieved that it was not placed in rural north Dublin "where there is such a dependence on clean water to supply half the country's vegetables, if there was any sort of accident".

Clean

But Fianna Fail senator Darragh O'Brien said there was also a need for clean water for farmers and residents in the chosen site of Clonshaugh.

"Our argument is that if it's not good for one community, it's not good for any community. There is active viable farmland in Clonshaugh that has been farmed for generations and exactly the same applies. It's vegetable farming – potatoes, carrots, cabbage," he said.

Dr Reilly has said that as a doctor, he would be happier to see smaller sewage treatment plants rather than "one large unit and large volumes of untreated sewage travelling long distances". But he said he had been told that the large treatment plant was the "only cost-effective way".

Mr O'Brien accused Dr Reilly of ignoring the south end of the constituency on the basis of "not in my back yard".

He said the sewage treatment plan would turn Clonshaugh into a "giant toilet bowl" for the Greater Dublin region.

"Less than 5pc of the houses supplying sewage to the plant will come from Fingal and the rest will come from the Greater Dublin area,"he said.

But Fingal County Council has said it was a myth that the new plant would be treating sewage from all over Dublin and surrounding counties.

On its official project website, it says that the majority of waste water treated at the plant would come from the Fingal County area.

"Eventually the plant will treat some waste water from other parts of the Greater Dublin area," it said.

The council has maintained that the Clonshaugh site is the best available option – and will also be €80m cheaper to build than the two alternative sites near Lusk.

It said the Ringsend sewage treatment plant would reach its maximum treatment capacity by 2020.

Although Fianna Fail and local opposition groups have argued in favour of building a series of smaller sewage treatment plants, the council says studies have shown that one large plant has a lesser impact on the environment.

Irish Independent

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