CLARE County Council has “no idea” where the money to fund an upgrade to the Quin sewerage plant can be found, even though such an upgrade is the only way to permanently solve problems with the village’s sewerage system.
This emerged at a recent meeting of the council’s Ennis East Electoral Area when Councillor Sonny Scanlan asked council officials about the up-to-date position with the sewerage in Quin.
A written response from senior engineer for water services with the council, Seán Ward, explained that the existing wastewater treatment plant in Quin was built in the late 1970s to serve a population equivalent of 740.
“The village has grown to an existing population of approximately 1,105 and the plant has become overloaded both biologically and hydraulically. During the 2000s, it has given several sub-standard results in testing of effluents and during 2009, there were odour problems.
“In the mid 2000s, Clare County Council designed and obtained Part 8 [planning permission for public services] to build a new plant capable of treating an addition population of 1,760, estimated to cost in excess of €700,000. In 2008, tenders were invited from contractors to design and build a new plant. The project was not included in the water services investment programme or the serviced land initiative and was unsuitable for the small schemes programme because of its size, hence it was to be 100% financed by the council, from the proceeds of development levies,” the engineer said.
He continued, “With the slowdown of the construction business from 2008 onward, no funding can now be realistically expected from development levies to build the plant as designated and no tender has been accepted. However, the water services section is working on alternative proposals to build a lower-cost smaller scale upgrade, which will use the existing equipment to the greatest possible extent. The smaller scale upgrade would cater for up to 1,400 population. As the existing population is 1,105 and development is unlikely to resume at a fast pace, an upgrade of this size should cater for likely growth for a number of years to come. It represents average annual population growth of 1% over 24 years or 2% over 12 years or 3% over eight years.”
Mr Ward added that the odour problem has been addressed by taking the sludge drying beds out of commission and replacing them with an enclosed skip system to handle the sludge from the treatment process.
“Better measurement of inflow, measurement of dissolved oxygen and additional monitoring of effluents are also included in the operational changes. Operational changes to the existing plant are worthwhile in themselves but they will not solve the problems of substandard effluents or of overflows to the River Rine, when inflow is high due to heavy rainfall. The only way to permanently solve these problems is to build an upgrade. As the first steps in this, a flow and load survey will be done over the next two to three months to give up-to-date information on actual quantity and strength of effluent coming in and the sewers in the village will be examined to check the extent of possible infiltration of rainwater or groundwater into the foul sewerage network. Any practicable small-scale works will be done to separate foul flow from clean water flow,” the engineer stated.
He further said that the 2010 operational budget allocated for wastewater maintenance in the Ennis area should be able to bear the cost of this. “However, building an upgrade, even a relatively low-cost one, will require provision of a separate capital budget and at this time it is not apparent where such a budget can be found. We have no idea where the budget can be found to fund this.”
At the meeting, executive engineer with the council, Eamonn O’Dea said that they are going to do these preliminary works and see how that works.
Councillor Johnny Flynn stated that development levies collected in the Quin area don’t seem to have been spent in Quin or retained for spending there.
Councillor Scanlan said people who have planning applications for houses pending because of the issues with the sewerage system in Quin, should not be held up building their houses.
“Houses could take a year or more to build, so the council should ensure that delays in getting the upgrading of the sewerage system does not affect people building their houses.”
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Scanlan outlined that people can’t get planning permission because of these issues with the sewerage system and he called for this practice to be “lifted”.
“My biggest concern is that people can’t get planning. By the time they get their planning and their house is built, the sewerage system should be completed. There was €1 million set aside about two years ago from contributions from planning developments in Quin, now they’re cutting that and are trying to do the same job for less money. I don’t approve of that,” Councillor Scanlan commented.
He also addressed the odour issue in the village and said he hoped the works would rectify this issue.
“Last year we had a terrible smell around Quin from July to September when the weather was clammy and I should hope that this wouldn’t happen,” he concluded.