Cork County Council has submitted a “business case” to Irish Water for a €8.8m sewage treatment plant and the upgrading of water mains in Castletownbere because it makes economic sense.
The town is one of the few left in Co Cork which does not have a sewage treatment system, and the local authority said the lack of this system and a proper water supply is hampering the growth of the town’s fishing and tourism industries.
The Environmental Protection Agency told the council that it must prevent untreated sewage from entering the harbour by the end of 2015.
From Jan 1, Irish Water will have the responsibility to ensure the EPA directive is complied with.
At a meeting of the council’s Western Division in Clonakilty yesterday, Fine Gael councillor Jerry O’Sullivan said plans for a sewage treatment plant in Castletownbere were mooted as far back as 1974.
“I cringe when I see the regatta every August and look at the swimmers,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “If they only knew what they were swimming in.”
“This should have been done years ago when we had the money. I’m sick to the teeth of it.”
He added that there was also a shortage of water supply to the town, preventing more fish factories being set up on Dinish Island and the construction of new homes, as well as holding back the local tourist industry.
Council engineers agreed it was unacceptable in this day and age not to have a sewage treatment plant in such a town and acknowledged that Castletownbere and the whole Beara peninsula will need an adequate water supply in the years ahead. They said, however, that Irish Water had indicated it was ready to spend in areas where there could be a big impact and assistant county manager James Fogarty said he would be pushing the case very hard for Castletownbere.
Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Murphy said Dinish Island was the third largest fishing port in the British Isles and had massive potential for factories, but constraints on the water supply system were hampering this.
Mr Murphy added that the council’s own economic development fund was also looking at building small start-up companies on the island and this couldn’t go ahead without a proper water supply.
Fianna Fáil councillor Danny Crowley said 80% of the water pumped onto the island was lost through leaks, and this was the first thing Irish Water should tackle.
Mr O’Sullivan said the projects should be done in tandem to ensure that roads were not dug up twice.
He also urged engineers to come up with a traffic management plan that would minimise congestion when the projects finally got underway.
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