Frustration is hitting fever pitch in two West Clare communities over the absence of adequate sewerage and wastewater treatment plants despite decades of efforts to rectify the matter.
Separate respective plights of forty and sixty nine years in Cooraclare and Carrigaholt were brought into focus by elected representatives of the West Clare Municipal District who are seeking a sit down meeting with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien (FF) to find a remedy for the problems.
An investment of €1.4bn in water services was announced in the Department’s €3.1bn housing budget. The funding is earmarked to “deliver significant improvements in our public water and wastewater services” and will “support improved water supplies in rural Ireland” according to the Department. Over €1.3 billion is being provided to Irish Water in 2021.
Inclusion of Cooraclare sewerage scheme was requested as “a level one priority” to be constructed as a pilot project by Cllr Bill Chambers (FF). He said the scheme was ready to go to tender when it was axed previously. “It was in the Programme for Government even though some people said it wasn’t, people will deny it but small schemes like Cooraclare and Carrigaholt were in it”.
Irish Water in a written reply to the motion detailed that “a multi-billion euro investment programme over many years” was required to build, repair and upgrade its treatment plants. “It is important to note that Irish Water has no statutory role where there is currently no infrastructure. Irish Water does not have any plans to develop a new sewerage scheme in Cooraclare where there is currently no public wastewater infrastructure”.
Similarly the spokesperson confirmed no plans to develop a sewerage scheme in Carrigaholt existed following an appeal by Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG). He maintained that the village was “an ideal project” for a pilot scheme. He recalled that as far back as 1952, Carrigaholt was waiting on Clare County Council to provide a wastewater treatment plant with funding allocated in the 2009 Budget. “In 2011, Minister for Environment, Phil Hogan made funding available for a feasibility study to be carried out and when completed it showed a shortfall of €490,000 on an investment in excess of €1.3m”.
“We’re waiting for the last forty years to get this job done,” Cllr Chambers outlined. He said that half a million euros was spent on the preparation of the scheme “and then it was axed about ten years ago, we’re still waiting”. He suggested that West Clare councillors and the county’s Oireachtas members arrange a meeting with the Minister to bring an end to the matter. “Bill is right to seek a meeting with the Minister,” Cllr Shane Talty (FF) commented in seconding the proposal.
Up to 51 villages in Clare are without sewerage schemes, Cllr Keating flagged. He questioned if the Council was being used by Irish Water who are not upholding their end of the service agreement between both parties. The current situation in Carrigaholt was labelled “a desperate state” as he noted the “gateway to Loop Head” was without a public toilet and basic facilities. He felt the Minister should establish a pilot scheme in West and East Clare.
Ambition to deliver works was in short supply among Irish Water, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) stated. He admitted to being “speechless for five minutes” upon reading their response. “We have to go and approach the Minister to put an alternative system in place for local authorities to provide basic infrastructure to allow for them to survive”.
Annoyance and frustration was voiced by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) on Irish Water’s conduct. “What a load of nonsense,” he remarked of their reply.
Cathaoirleach of the West Clare MD, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) revealed that hurdles are being met in attempts to add infrastructure in Doolin also. The knock-on effect will limit their efforts to entice people to live in West and North Clare. “Our country uses Doolin and Loop Head for postcards but has slammed the door in our face”.