Waste water treatment plants at Freshford and at Purcellsinch in the city, plus the water treatment plant in Urlingford, are among the 10 such projects due to be funded over the next three years, but councillors are disappointed at the omission of some priority schemes.
The works are outlined in the Draft Capital Budget for 2011-2013, which was presented at Monday’s meeting of Kilkenny County Council. The proposed spending will be considered over the coming weeks and will be further discussed at next month’s meeting.
Of the e47.3 million to be spent over three years, e16 million is proposed to be spent on water and wastewater treatment plants across the county. About 61% is due to come from the Government, with the remainder being provided locally.
Water services projects, in order of priority, include water conservation works to address leakage across the county; Gowran Waste Water Treatment Plant; Thomastown Waste Water; Kilkenny City Water remedial works at Radestown; Gowran/Goresbridge/Paulstown Water; interim upgrades at Ballyhale Waste Water, Paulstown Waste Water and Urlingford Waste Water; Kilkenny City Waste Water Treatment Plant at Purcellsinch; Freshford Waste Water Treatment Plant interim upgrade; and Urlingford Water.
To pay for the latter three, it is proposed to use e400,000 which had been set aside for upgrades of recycling facilities at Dunmore and a civic amenity site at Grannagh – but of which the council can no longer afford the full cost. Existing recycling facilities would be maintained, according to county manager Joe Crockett, but they would not be expanded as had been hoped.
“Where the council is facing environmental pressure is in the area of water services,” Mr Crockett said. “We are not facing European court cases in the future on whether we expand recycling, but we are under imminent threat under the European Court of Justice in the next two to three years on water services.”
While welcoming the upgrades included in the proposed budget, some members expressed dismay at those that are not.
Cllr Sean Treacy (FF) asked why the Inistioge Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrade didn’t make the proposed list. “We were told it was a priority and under threat from the powers-that-be in Europe. Now it seems to have been pushed back to 2014-plus,” he said.
Mr Crockett said the council had hoped that recent remedial works carried out there would have addressed the problem in the short term, but it turned out not to be the case. “It looks like we have to go back to the big scheme, which will be more expensive,” he said. “That is a major disappointment to us.”
The council is now seeking the maximum Government grant available to address the problem.
It is also seeking a higher level of funding for the Castlecomer Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is not proposed on the list of works for 2011-13.
“There are two or three projects on line that can’t progress until we have the plant upgraded,” Cllr Maurice Shortall (Lab) said in reference to planning permission for a hotel and a development in the town centre that have been granted but must wait until the plant is upgraded. “I can’t understand or accept this.”
The Clogh/Castlecomer Water is also not included, although the council has applied for a grant of e1.25 million – the maximum amount – for the scheme, said director of services Philip O’Neill.
Noting the continued problem of black water in Clogh Moneenroe due to manganese in the area, Cllr John Brennan (FG) noted that “not a single house can be added” to the current scheme. “How are we going to plan for the future if we can’t allow on single house to go into the treatment plant?” he asked.
Officials said these and other schemes are still considered essential, but that the system of using development levies to fund such projects has collapsed.
“The council is putting everything it conceivably can into the water services programme,” Mr Crockett said. “All of these schemes should be progressed, but when finances are limited you have to prioritise on the basis of environmental impact.”
The Draft Capital Budget also proposes to take e100,000 of the money set aside for a South Kilkenny library and instead use it as the council’s contribution to the new swimming pool in New Ross, as “its catchment area extends across the river into Kilkenny,” said the council’s head of finance, John Dempsey. As it stands, the council cannot afford to fund a new library and will instead focus on the proposed library headquarters in the city.
It is also proposed to review – i.e. lower – development charges by the end of this year. “They have to be lowered for domestic developments,” said Cllr Matt Doran (FF).