22 Jan 2022

Water schemes
‘in jeopardy’

Laois County Council’s Director of Services Michael O’Hora says it was a shock to get such low funding for Laois’ water services, and has formally written to the government to seek more money.

Laois County Council’s Director of Services Michael O’Hora says it was a shock to get such low funding for Laois’ water services, and has formally written to the government to seek more money.

The council received just €259,000 of the €2.79million requested, leaving Laois at the bottom of the list in the country. The average grant is €430,000, while Mayo and Galway are receiving almost €6 million.

Mr O’Hora said they had put a lot of work into their proposals for funding.

“It came as a shock to us to see what we achieved. We will certainly spend everything we have got, but we will continue to discuss it with the department,” he said.

He has sent a formal letter seeking a review of Laois’ allocation to the Rural Water Services.

“I wish to formally express my personal disappointment in relation to the level of funding. It is inconsistent, that in a county that has experienced the fastest rate in growth in population, 20 per cent, Laois received the lowest level of funding in the country and well below the average,” Mr O’Hora wrote.

For taking in charge Group Water Schemes, the council had asked for €1.035m which included €260 to finish work started in 2011, but nothing was forthcoming.

“No funding was received under this category, thus putting the completion of these schemes in jeopardy,” he says.

For upgrades to the network. €647,444 was requested, including €56,500 to pay for contracts begun last year, but no funds whatsoever have been allocated. They had requested €157,500 to help them to comply with EPA waste water discharge guidelines, but got €60,000, while a request for €30,000 to fix an urgent waste water problem was denied completely.

“This allocation puts severe pressure on Laois’ ability to comply with EPA discharge authorisations. It has serious implications for the local authority’s ability to meet legal obligations in relation to EU drinking water regulations and Urban Waste water regulations. I respectfully request that the allocation for Laois be reviewed and that an increased level of funding be rewarded to Laois,” he said, offering to meet dept officials to go into more details.

He has undertaken to pay contractors for group water schemes begun last year, despite having no government grant aid.

“Those investments are required. We have contractual commitments and they will definitely receive that money. We are just going to have to come up with that,” he said at last week’s county council meeting.

There is no money allocated for developing a third well for Portarlington’s water supply, but the council are applying for a grant from the Water Services Investment Programme instead. There is also no money for waste water treatment schemes planned for Ballinakill, Newtown, Timahoe and Coolenagh.

However €100,000 was given to handle a potential threat to the pearl water mussel, along with other compliance issues. Cllr Brendan Phelan was critical of this, while being in support of Mr O’Hora’s letter.

“They should be providing clean water to people first, and worr about the pearl mussel after,” he said.

Cllr Paddy Bracken voiced concerns for the jobs of water services staff.

“They have turned the tap off, there is no money for Laois, it’s important we don’t give in. We spent €40,000 to €50,000 a year putting flouride in, and no other country uses it,” he said.

Mr O’Hora explained that the dept take the water mussel very seriously, while jobs were safe.

“You can rest assured that in the water services section, we will have areas where we can reassign staff,” he said.

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