Members of Wexford County Council vented their anger at Irish Water once again at their monthly meeting last week, after it emerged that the delivery of long promised Wastewater Treatment Plants around the county was to be postponed by a year due to a €100 million shortfall in funding.
A group scheme for Ballyhack, Duncannon and Arthurstown was due to go to construction in the first quarter of this year. The Kilmore Quay plant was due to go to tender this summer with a view to entering construction phase by the end of the year, while a treatment plant for Fethard on Sea was said to be at design phase.
The amount of untreated raw sewage being pumped into the sea at these locations has long been a source of embarrassment locally and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has raised its major concerns on numerous occasions. In Kilmore Quay, for example, it was previously reported that the equivalent of 1,600 wheelie bins of raw sewage was being discharged into the sea on a daily basis.
Towards the end of last year, public consultations took place in relation to the construction of wastewater treatment facilities, however, according to the council members, confirmation has now come through that these are to be delayed by 12 months owing to a lack of funding. In Kilmore Quay, that means that a further 584,000 wheelie bins of raw sewage will find it's way into the sea.
Cllr Michael Whelan expressed his dismay, particularly referencing Duncannon, where he said the council are doing great work to improve the situation. He also expressed his concerns that there was no guarantee these projects would go ahead next year.
'I would ask that we write to Irish Water to seek assurances and to express our dismay,' he said. 'They say it's still high on the list of priorities, but it won't be done this year. For Duncannon, the contractor had been chosen and everything. The council has spent over €600,000 on improving water quality down there too, but Irish Water seems to have disregarded what's been done by pulling out.'
Cllr John Fleming blasted Irish Water saying that they are 'holding up all developments' in Wexford, while Cllr Jim Moore questioned where the funding for the utility provider was going to come from in the future.
'We have four areas in conflict with the EPA in relation to all the legislation on discharges,' he said.
'This is perhaps not getting the attention it deserves. Once we made the decision not to pay for water, we are in a situation where Irish Water is competing with health and housing for funding. Long term, where is the funding going to come from?'
Director of Services Eamonn Hore said that he would write to Irish Water on behalf of the representatives and ask them to send a representative to offer some clarity on the Wexford projects.