A record investment of €113.6 million has been announced to fund the significant upgrade of water services in the Athlone area
Safeguarding supply, quality and waste water treatment, the significant investment was confirmed by Government following a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning.
Construction on the project is due to begin by the end of the year and be completed by September 2025.
Confirming the significant funding allocation, local Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, noted that due to the cost associated with the project, the investment needed to be approved by all members of Cabinet prior to the contract being awarded.
“While the cost to upgrade our water on such a significant level is very high, it is vital for Athlone communities that they have access to safe drinking water and appropriate wastewater services.
“I am delighted that Cabinet has now approved this massive investment, which will accommodate Athlone’s water needs to at least 2050 and will ensure that the predicted population growth in Athlone will be facilitated and new housing and businesses will have security of supply.
“Due to flooding incidents around Athlone, the sewers have been designated as sensitive areas and there is potential for the discharge of untreated water into these sensitive areas, so this extra attention to the town’s unique water quality circumstances is vital to ensure there is no contamination.
“The project will include a number of large-scale actions, including the construction of a new very large-scale pumping station at Golden Island, as well as another new pumping station at Coosan, which will replace the existing one there which does not have the capacity to deal with future demands on water.
“The realised project will incorporate a new 1.8km long tunnelled sewer constructed with a 1km long open cut sewer and mains, as well as two additional tunnelled crossings under the bed of the River Shannon.
“These works are extensive and incredibly costly due to the scale of the project and additional accounting has been needed under the Public Spending Code to ensure value for taxpayers’ money. If we do not make this investment, we could see large-scale contamination of water, issues with our domestic and commercial water supply and the mismanagement of sewerage and effluent. Families and businesses must have access to safe, clean drinking water.
“Now that this project has government approval, Irish Water will proceed to finalise the contract documents with the preferred tender followed by commencement of construction,” Deputy Burke commented.
‘Eye Watering’ Investment in Athlone’s water infrastructure
Welcoming the significant investment, Cathaoirleach, Westmeath County Council, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, stated that government funding will address the Athlone’s water infrastructure issues and futureproof the town as it continues its development as a national growth centre.
“For thirty years there has been a need to address Athlone’s Victorian waste water and sewage infrastructure and more recently, concern also turned to the safe supply of fresh drinking water. Two years ago, Athlone had regular water ‘outages’ because the supply was not there to meet the demands of our population and businesses.
“Athlone is a growing, vibrant and modern town, a university hub with realistic ambitions to be a city in the near future. We have big plans to grow our population, attract investment, expand our business park, construct new houses, become a top five tourism destination, build new bridges and much more.
“Athlone is also designated as a key regional growth centre in the country, specifically for the wider Midlands region with many new builds set to be realised in the coming years. We are the educational, tourism and business capital of the region.
“Below our streets our waste water infrastructure is Victorian, and in very bad repair. Essentially this means that sewage continues to flow into our greatest natural asset, the River Shannon. Another downfall of this out-dated infrastructure is that when water levels rise in the town, our shores become over-run with sewage which detrimentally impacts low-lying areas of our town.
“This investment will finally address the town’s current water infrastructure problems and futureproofs our town going forward for future generations.
“According to a recent EPA report, raw sewage from 35 towns and villages flows into our environment every day. Athlone is one of these towns. However, now we have a plan and we need to proceed with this major project as soon as possible.
“There will undoubtedly be considerable disruption in the town when the civil works get underway and I will be insisting that Irish Water and their contractors for these works will liaise closely with the business and the residents of the town. This consultation will need to begin imminently now that the investment has been confirmed and I will personally ensure that regular meaningful consultation will happen.
“This investment is superb news in terms of our potential to attract new businesses to Athlone and foreign inward investment. These companies assess many issues before they make a decision on a preferred location. However, very high on their checklist of requirements is a guaranteed high quality supply of fresh water, particularly in the manufacturing, pharma and med tech sectors.
“I wish to thank our local Ministers, Deputy Robert Troy and Deputy Peter Burke, and all local public representatives for the work they have conducted pertaining to this investment and I look forward to works commencing in due course,” Cllr O’Rourke concluded.