I have just received the following reply from Irish Water to a query (below) that I raised last November on the development of sewerage facilities in villages across East Galway.
This is an issue that I have been pursuing with Sean Canney TD, Cllr. Tim Broderick and Cllr. Evelyn Parsons.
Sadly, this reply is very disappointing.
See for yourself:
From: Adrian Harmon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: 26 January 2024 11:41
To: Denis Naughten <Denis.Naughten@oireachtas.ie>
Subject: Uisce Éireann query response
Dear Deputy Naughten,
Many thanks for your query at last month’s Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting on Uisce Éireann’s plans to service Craigue, Caltra, Castleblakeney, and Kilconnel with wastewater connections. I also want to apologise for the delay in getting back to you.
Uisce Éireann (UÉ) operates within a regulatory framework which is set out in legislation. This requires UÉ to submit plans in advance to our economic regulator, the CRU, for our proposed operational and investment spending in revenue funding “cycles”.
We are currently in the third of these funding cycles – Revenue Control 3 or RC3. This is a five-year funding period covering 2020 to 2024. In the period from 2020-2024 almost €6bn investment will be undertaken by UÉ under the National Development Plan 2021-2030. This investment includes the projects and programmes committed to in UÉ’s Capital Investment Plan 2020-2024. The Capital Investment Plan sets out where we prioritise investment to deliver the most urgently needed improvements in drinking water quality, leakage reduction, water availability, wastewater compliance, efficiencies and customer service. It is made up of investment in individual projects such as building new or upgrading existing water and wastewater treatment plants and upgrading existing networks, and national programmes where activities are being delivered in a consistent and efficient manner across the country.
In the case of Craigue, Caltra, Castleblakeney, and Kilconnell, the relevant local authority may make an application under the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s Rural Water Programme for funding to service such areas, as the Capital Investment Plan does not make provision for providing sewerage infrastructure to villages and settlements without access to public wastewater services.
Should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Public Affairs Analyst
Teach Colvill, 24–26 Sráid Thalbóid, Baile Átha Cliath 1, D01 NP86, Éire
Colvill House, 24–26 Talbot Street, Dublin 1, D01 NP86, Ireland
Wednesday, 6 December 2023
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection
Water and Energy Connections in Rural Areas: Discussion
Denis Naughten, Committee Cathaoirleach: The committee will now consider utility connections in rural areas and on our islands. In a recent historic meeting of this joint committee ar Árainn Mhór, it was demonstrated very clearly to us the impact of water and electricity connections in rural areas and the difficulties often for those in remote areas and on our offshore islands.
There are brilliant strides being made on connectivity and with the utility connections in place it will be possible for the islands to become climate neutral and a net provider of energy to the mainland. However, in order to realise these aims, it is essential utilities are available and regularly serviced to ensure the island population is able to live, work and thrive on our offshore islands into the future.
From the Department of Rural and Community Development, I welcome Mr. Robert Nicholson, principal officer at the rural strategy and social enterprise unit, and Mr. Aodán Mac an Mhíle, principal officer at the islands unit. From the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications I welcome Mr. John Finnegan, principal officer and Mr. Brian Diskin, assistant principal officer. From the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, I welcome Mr. Jim Gannon, chairperson, Ms Aoife MacEvilly, commissioner, and Mr. Conor McEvoy, electricity networks manager. From ESB Networks we have Mr. Nicholas Tarrant, managing director, and Mr. Alan Rossiter, manager of customer and project delivery south. From Uisce Éireann we have Mr. Ted O’Reilly, asset planning manager, Mr. Des Joyce, water supply lead and Mr. Anthony Skeffington, regional operations manager. All are very welcome………….
Denis Naughten, Committee Cathaoirleach: I might start with Mr. O’Reilly. I will talk about something parochial, but it applies across the country, which is wastewater treatment facilities in many smaller towns and villages. In east Galway, for example, in villages like Castleblakeney, Creggs, Kilconnell and Caltra, wastewater treatment facilities are grossly inadequate and raw sewage runs onto the streets. Yet, nothing seems to be happening to address the capital needs for those treatment facilities. This forces many people in those communities to live either in Galway city or Ballinasloe. It is not possible for them to remain in their own parishes because there are no serviced sites available. This is replicated across the country. How can this challenge be dealt with? There is huge demand in growing towns to develop capacity and ensuring the construction of large numbers of houses but we will lose the fabric of rural Ireland if there is no investment in small-scale wastewater treatment facilities. What is Irish Water specifically doing to address situations like those in east Galway?…
Mr. Ted O’Reilly: With regard to servicing wastewater needs I will first address the national picture and then focus on the east Galway situation. There is the set-up of the small towns and villages growth programme which was referenced in the opening statement. That was set up in the past two years in recognition of the need to provide investment in smaller communities, primarily from a wastewater perspective. In recent years Irish Water has initiated and is progressing 50 projects that are addressing primarily wastewater and sump water needs. The level of expenditure on these projects once they are completed will be significant. We estimate it will be at least €300 million for those projects on their own. It is worth noting those 50 projects are part of a cohort of approximately 300 nationally where there is a need to increase the capacity in our wastewater treatment infrastructure to allow growth in rural areas.
From an east Galway perspective, as we applied the small towns programme to Galway in particular, two candidate sites came through that required investment. The Chair is probably aware of those two sites being Mountbellew and Ballygar. Both of those are progressing with projects under way.
In terms of the smaller settlements the Chair mentioned, they may fall under the infrastructure that does not currently reside within Uisce Éireann and we can check that after the fact and come back to him with more detail. For that type of infrastructure there are housing estates that would have been built a number of years previously and had stand-alone treatment plants provided by the developers at the time. They are known as developer-provided infrastructure. There is a process to follow to address these. That in itself represents a major problem nationally. There are approximately 540 of these particular types of estates throughout the country that have stand-alone wastewater treatment plants and they are in varying degrees of maintenance and operation. A number of them are causing quite a big problem, as the Chair referenced. Uisce Éireann is working very closely with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on that. Currently, the responsibility in terms of taking these in charge lies with the planning authority and we are working with the Department to look at ways of resolving this. There is a very big path and investment need ahead of us to address all of these issues.