Kilbeggan residents received a rare bit of good news recently when it was announced the council is to spend €400,000 to upgrade the town’s sewage treatment plant.
This was announced by Director of Services, Barry Kehoe at the most recent bi-monthly meeting of the Kilbeggan Area committee, but had an unfortunate side-effect of raising a few hackles from a two-year-old controversy.
“We have received the funding to improve the sewerage in Kilbeggan, [however] it won’t improve capacity, just improve the existing system. The work will exclusively be within the treatment plant. There’ll be no extra pipework to be done in the town,” he confirmed.
He explained how the council planned to replace two surface aerators with a more up-to-date equipment “which will also improve power costs”, and that this was expected to cost in the region of €400,000.
Cllr Paul Daly enquired as to what would be required to increase capacity for the village, and was told that this was costed at €2.5m, but was not going to happen for the foreseeable future as “we must work within the parameters of our EPA licence”.
“Also, if this new work is not done there is a possibility Westmeath County Council could be fined by the EPA,” warned Barry Kehoe.
Cllr Daly pointed out that another important factor into the local system was the input from the Dunbia plant which had included its own wastewater treatment as part of a planned €12m extension in 2010.
However, this possibility was scuppered when the county council controversially failed to vote through a zoning amendment by the narrowest of margins in July 2011 which would have allowed this.
“This would’ve freed up a lot of capacity,” Cllr Daly pointed out; however, Mr Kehoe felt that “it wouldn’t be the wisest to invest €2.5m with this possibilty still outstanding”.
A brief reminder of the tensions and confrontations from this controversy was raised in the meeting as Cllr Gerry Corcoran felt it necessary to point out “it was a democratic decision about Glanbia” to Cllrs Daly and Arthur who had supported the expansion plans.
At the heated meeting on July 25, 2011, where the county manager had recommended the elected councillors change the zoning of the land adjacent to Dunbia’s 10-year-old plant from commercial to industrial, just 16 of the 17 members required to achieve this voted for the amendment, forcing the Tyrone-based firm back to the drawing board.
At that meeting Cllr Arthur complained that “there seem to be two parallel universes - the one where I live and the one where my [anti] colleagues live... A ‘No’ vote is nothing short of economic treason against our countymen”.
He was supported in this issue by Cllr Daly, and opposed locally by Cllrs Corcoran and Joe Flanagan.