Fine Gael Mayo TD for Mayo Michelle Mulherin has urged the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, to intervene to ensure the improvement of the quality of water in certain communities in Mayo where tapwater is not fit for human consumption.
Deputy Mulherin said: “In some rural areas of Mayo the water coming through the taps is not only unfit for human consumption but in some cases not fit for personal bathing. I have seen red coloration coming through the taps that makes it unsuitable for people to wash their clothes. In most cases, the contamination is naturally occurring because of the ground conditions in a particular area and, in spite of drilling wells, people cannot get a clean water supply.”
Cllr Mulherin added: “This year the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government allocated €200,000 to Mayo County Council for new group water schemes. However, to date, notwithstanding the fact that communities in Kilmurry, Downpatrick, Ballycastle, Massbrook, Aghalonteen, Carracastle, and Furmoyle, comprising 210 houses in total, have been waiting for years for a new group water scheme, the council has not been in a position to spend one penny of the allocated funding. That is not for want of trying on the part of the council and the communities.”
The problem, according to the deputy, is that “the estimated cost of each scheme is too high compared to the amount of funding available from the Department. Because of the relatively small number of houses in these proposed group water schemes in rural areas, the cost of constructing the schemes per household is higher than in more densely populated areas where there are more households to contribute towards the cost of the scheme. Under the current funding rules the county council is only entitled to recoup a maximum of €6,500 per house from the Department. In turn, each household contributes approximately €1,200 towards the cost. In the case of the six Mayo schemes I have mentioned, it leaves a total funding shortfall of €432,000.
“Previously, the shortfall was funded through the CLÁR scheme, but since 2008-09 when it was abolished the problem has become very acute, with no movement or progress on the schemes, notwithstanding the fact that local households have actually paid their contributions. In addition, they paid over €170,000 in consultants' fees to have proposals submitted to the Minister and signed off on. They cannot recoup the money until the schemes go ahead. As a result, they are out of pocket and have nothing to show for the money they have spent.”
In conclusion she said: “I acknowledge that this is a problem the Minister has inherited, but I am urging him to intervene and put in place a solution to allow the long-overdue water schemes to proceed. The communities would have benefited from CLÁR funding in the past because they were identified as areas of rural disadvantage. I have asked Minister Hogan to increase the departmental contribution for the former CLÁR-associated disadvantaged areas. I have also asked that they be refunded the cost of the consultants' fees for the schemes and not be left out of pocket any longer.”