Breen commends Clare Council Staff and Local Emergency Services for their efforts during recent water shortage crisis

January 18th, 2011 - Pat Breen

Water Utilities Motion – Dail Eireann.
Wednesday, 12th January 2011
Deputy Pat Breen T.D.

I welcome the opportunity to speak tonight. I commend Deputy Hogan on tabling this timely motion. The importance of running water to hundreds of thousands of householders was brought home to them over the Christmas period. I am attached to a local group water scheme and was without water for eight days. It was not just householders as farmers and businesses were also badly affected; that period was a nightmare for many people. As other speakers have said the problem was compounded by a Third World mains infrastructure system. Much of an antiquated system is more than 30 years old and is unable to cope with the number of houses built in over the Celtic tiger period. I commend the local authorities on the work they did and in particular Clare County Council in my constituency and the local fire service which mobilised water tankers and set up standpipes in the affected areas. That was done very quickly and these people are to be commended for this. Throughout the holiday period local authorities had to deal with thousands of leaks and it put considerable pressure on local authorities. I am told that in Ennis alone there were 360 breaks since St. Stephen’s Day in one small area, which shows the extent of the problem. A significant number of businesses now find themselves in dire strait as a result of the bad business trading period before and after Christmas. While I am here, I appeal to local authorities to be flexible in dealing with the rate bills of these businesses which had to close during the period because of water shortages.
I want to highlight one area in my constituency. Last year we had the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, down to open the Ennis augmentation plant on which more than €10 million was spent. In the treatment plant in Castle Lake and Sixmilebridge, which supplies the water to a considerable catchment area stretching from Kilkishen, Sixmilebridge and Shannon Airport, there is a problem at present. The obvious solution is to upgrade the Sixmilebridge plant and feed the water into Ennis, three quarters of the pipework has been already done and a new reservoir needs to be built in the Ballybeg area which would help alleviate the low pressure which residents living in that area must endure.
We need to take a more integrated approach to our water distribution network. We need direct connections. I commend Deputy Hogan’s motion on setting up a State-owned water authority to co-ordinate the water networks in the country.
Fine Gael Private Members Motion Underneath for your information.