Development of Communities Stunted by Lack of Wastewater Infrastructure

The continued absence of essential wastewater infrastructure in coastal communities such as Carrigaholt, Doolin and Spanish Point and across the State has been raised with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar by Independent TD Michael McNamara.

Addressing the Taoiseach during Leader’s Questions in Dáil Éireann, Deputy McNamara noted how some towns and villages in Clare and throughout Ireland have little prospect of a resolution as neither local authorities nor Irish Water have any responsibility for the delivery of wastewater infrastructure in unsewered communities.

Deputy McNamara said the onus is on government, which is presiding over a budget surplus, to step in to deliver infrastructure, which he described as an environmental and economic necessity and key to facilitating the future sustainable development of coastal communities.

“Irish Water states that if there is no sewer in an area, no matter how bad the situation is, it is not its problem,” he stated. “The County Councils state that they no longer have a water infrastructure remit so it not their problem. It is nobody’s problem, but it is a problem for all of us if we are pumping raw sewage into our rivers and streams, and into the sea. That is what we are doing all over this State at the moment, as we run a surplus and do nothing with it.”

Deputy McNamara noted that significant scope exists for the future sustainable development of communities like Carrigaholt, Doolin and Spanish Point but that this would not be possible without the provision of adequate wastewater infrastructure.

He explained, “Irish Water pleaded guilty to five of 13 charges with regard to the Miltown Malbay plant in November 2022. I asked what the plant was doing about it. It is going to carry out an assessment. Spanish Point is nearby. It is an important settlement with no wastewater infrastructure whatsoever. A third settlement at Seafield, Quilty is beside Spanish Point. The wastewater treatment plant there is operating at only 51% capacity. I asked if an assessment had been carried out as to whether sewage could be brought from Spanish Point, which is an important settlement. The Taoiseach may even have visited it; lots of people have. It is a lovely place to visit, except for the fact the sewage is probably flowing untreated into the sea.”

“The same is true of Carrigaholt, which is beside a special area of conservation, SAC, as is Spanish Point. Doolin is another beautiful settlement with the same problem. If we are not going to solve that problem now when we have an enormous surplus, when are we going to do so? Are we saying this is optional expenditure and we will wait until we have spent a couple of million euro in the European Court of Justice and be forced to do it?,” added Deputy McNamara.

In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar highlighted the funding scheme announced by the Government in 2022, which targets the wastewater collection and treatment needs of villages and settlements without public wastewater access.

“That is something that I strongly support because any settlement should have decent wastewater facilities and should be able to have some level of natural expansion in terms of new housing and population, even if it is very small,” stated the Taoiseach. “I am told it is open to these areas to bid to be included in this programme or otherwise to receive funding for the provision of wastewater infrastructure, and Uisce Éireann will work with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and local authorities to support the development and implementation of an appropriate solution.”

Speaking following the debate, Deputy McNamara said the €50m scheme, while welcome, is “a drop in the ocean” of what is required to rectify the deficit of wastewater infrastructure in towns and villages across Clare and the remainder of the country.