Local Authority delivery of waste water treatment at local level

The abdication of the responsibility of Irish Water to deliver critical pieces of infrastructure.

Published on May 21, 2021

Request the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage would permit Local Authorities to undertake development of waste water treatment facilities for smaller settlements

In the past two months we have seen several responses from IW to requests from elected members for updates on the delivery of waste-water treatment plants in the smaller settlements they represent… these answers provide, for the first time, clarity around the abdication of the responsibility of a state utility to deliver these critical pieces of infrastructure.

  • Irish Water does not have any plans to develop a new sewerage scheme in Cooraclare where there is currently no public wastewater infrastructure.
  • Irish Water does not have any plans to develop a new sewerage scheme in Carrigaholt village.

As a standalone statement from the state utility company whose function is to deliver these projects… this is a staggering admission, given the negative impacts the lack of waste-water treatment has on human health and our environment. Its truly mind boggling.

But there are other wider implications for their lack of interest in actually delivering on their mandated function.

The NPF provides for waste-water treatment as a key service in the zoning of land in our communities, the refusal of IW to undertake this work will mean many of our settlements, Carrigaholt, Cooraclare, Kilmihil, Doolin and Broadford for example will end up without land zoned for residential development until 2028 at best.
Secondly, WW treatment is a cornerstone for the delivery of one of the NPFs own objectives, 18b which reads

“Develop a programme for new homes in small towns and villages with local authorities, public infrastructure agencies such as IW and local communities to provide serviced sites with appropriate infrastructure to attract people to build their own homes an live in small towns and villages”.

It is impossible to reconcile achieving that objective with the responses we are receiving from IW… we are being instructed on one hand to adhere to the relevant regulations in order to achieve the desired outcomes within the NPF, and on the other hand, the state agency directed to deliver the very infrastructure that will ensure delivery of these objectives are refusing to do the job. Unless this deficit is addressed in a meaningful way, one has to question how much importance is actually being given to this objective and others like it.

The solution, and one that would show these objectives within the NPF are being taken seriously, is to permit the local authorities to step in and undertake these critical pieces of infrastructure in the smaller settlements that are so obviously beneath the scope of IWs interest.

If the state utility whose function it is to deliver waste water is refusing to do so it then it stands to reason the minister must make provision both through the legislation and in the budget for our local authorities to deliver it instead.

The infrastructure for piping clean water in and sewage out of homes is what has allowed people to gather in permanent dwellings and to create villages, towns, cities and cultures… the converse is also true, the failure to provide this infrastructure will lead to the loss of these same congregations, our towns, villages and cultures

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