Water fund slashed

Laois County Council is to receive just a quarter of a million euro from the government for the upkeep of water services in the county this year, the lowest in the State.

Laois County Council is to receive just a quarter of a million euro from the government for the upkeep of water services in the county this year, the lowest in the State.

The council had sought an allocation of €2.78million, but last month the Department of Environment confirmed that they would receive just a fraction of this.

“Laois County Council sought an allocation of €1.69m for Group Water Schemes and €1.09m for Small Schemes. Laois received only €9,000 for Group Schemes and €250,000 for Small Schemes,” Michael O’Hora, senior engineer with the Water Services Department confirmed.

Laois received €1.57m last year, half of what they received in 2008, this is compared with the €6m that Mayo and Galway are set to receive this year.

Mr O’Hora said the council had been in contact with Department officials and have impressed upon them the serious implications that this level of funding will have on the Council’s ability to meet commitments, both financially and operationally, and to ensure that the local authority is capable of meeting its legal requirements.

“Laois County Council staff are examining the situation in detail to establish the exact implications the allocation could have on the programme for work for 2012 and staff are also comparing the allocation with all other local authorities with a view to making a submission to the Department in the near future.”

He said the council were also working with the National Federation of Group Water Schemes in relation to the allocation for Group Schemes.”

However, Sinn Fein TD, Brian Stanley said this year’s allocation could have serious implications for both water supply and quality.

“Despite funding sought for a booster pump and a feasibility study on the supply from the Catholes to Derryguile in Mountmellick, nothing was received. Major issues arose last year with this supply, with 28 households having their water contaminated with THMs. Commitments were given by LCC at that time to the EPA that this would be rectified.”

Deputy Stanley said Laois was being badly treated by the Minister for Environment.

“Laois is being treated badly by the Minister and his officials. The shortage of money this year will present problems for water services. It is widely recognised that LCC have a very good record of using the allocations for upgrading supplies well and getting the best value from the modest amounts they received.”

Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael TD, said he was aware that the council’s funding for water services in Laois had been reduced, but he said the Department of Environment was working under a reduced budget.

“I have been informed by the Department that other County Councils have received greater allocations, however, their figures includes provision of funding for Group Water Schemes. Laois County Council received €1.536m last year including funding for the provision of 5 new wastewater treatment plants in Laois.”