By Noel Dundon
Members of North Tipperary County Council have sent a very clear ‘hands off our water” message to Dublin City Council, until such time as full and proper assessments have been done on their proposal to extract huge volumes of water from Lough Derg to service the Capital’s demands.
A high powered delegation from Dublin City Council including Manager, Mr John Tierney, a native of Terryglass, attended the monthly meeting of the council and engaged in a comprehensive presentation with Engineer Mr Tom Leahy and Consultant Mr Gerry Grant also in attendance.
The presentation focused on the necessity to boost the Dublin city water supply and outlined the various options available to officials in this regard. However, the advantages of the Lough Derg extraction scheme seem to make it the most attractive proposal and while it would take in the region of two years alone to undertake the environmental impact assessment, there is still a determination to commence the process in 2020 -2022.
However, members of the council reacted to the presentation with various opinions emerging during the course of the debate. There were many questions raised - so many, in fact, that it was decided to forward a list to Dublin City Council so that full answers and explainations can be returned.
Councillor Michael O’Meara questioned the delegation on the benefits which would accrue to North Tipperary; Cllr Seamus Hanafin suggested that if the water supply in Dublin was no longer capable of coping with the level of growth in the capital, perhaps it is time to shift the emphasis to other areas such as North Tipp, where the supply can meet the needs of sustainable development; Cllr Seamie Morris said that he would not allow Dublin City Council to plunder Lough Derg’s water and suggested that the expert views being put forward were all falling on the side of Dublin - North Tipp needs it’s own independent assessment as well, he said; Cllr Phyll Bugler feared for the impact extraction would have on angling and boating and also mentioned the impact on the algae bloom and the Zebra mussels; Cllr Jim Casey suggested that reducing water wastage and harvesting rain water would go some way towards meeting the demands in Dublin, rather than taking water from the Shannon; Cllr John Hogan said that 10 million litres per day is being pumped into the River Suir from Lisheen Mine and he could not understand why a natural resource like Lough Derg should be spoiled. He suggested that North Tipperary should be promoted as a place for development rather than continuing to expand the greater Dublin region which cannot survive because of the lack of water; Cllr Jonathon Meaney did not see the point of an eco-park being developed in the Midlands to act as a storage resevoir when a perfectly good natural amenity is situated in North Tipp; Cllr John Carroll wanted independent monitoring to be included; Cllr Michael Smith questioned if this was the last option on the table; Cllr Matty Ryan questioned how much would be paid for the water; while Cllr Denis Ryan described it as the biggest project to come before the council in his 27 years; Cllr Billy Clancy did not like the idea of selling off the natural resource similar to the fisheries and oil, and now forestry with the proposal sale of Coillte; Mayor Micheal Lowry referred to Bord na Mona’s involvement and wondered if they were bidding to become a water supply company as part of their diversification programme.
Dublin City Manager John Tierney addressed the concerns of members and answered many of the questions posed. He informed them that many companies will only establish bases in cities of certain scale and would therefore not consider moving to small centres. “That is a fact of life and there is nothing we can do about it. We have been quite up-front about our proposal and what the benefits will be. The majority of them are in terms of the country in general. People are saying that they would much prefer to see their kids having to move to Dublin rather than to Canada or Australia in search of employment for instance. We need another 20% in our water supply. We also need to deal with waste water and a treatment plant will cost in the region of 350million Euro. Breaking even with water is our ultimate target,” Mr Tierney said.
Adding that he would be totally opposed to the privitisation of the water supply, Mr Tierney said that he would hope that Lough Derg could develop and flourish under the community gain aspect of the project. He did not want to see the wonderful facilities in Lough Derg damaged or compromised, he said.
There will be several more consultations between the elected members and officials from Dublin City Council, while North Tipperary officials will be working in conjunction with them on a regular basis.
Consultant Mr Gerry Grant said that a systematic process was undertaken to determine which option was best for the Dublin city water supply. Within 10-15 years, the Dublin area will be completely choked unless another alternative water supply is found. He described it as a unique solution, the plan to draw water from Lough Derg at high flow times and store in a giant resevoir in a cut away bog in the Midlands.
North Tipperary County Manager, Mr Joe MacGrath, welcomed the fact that Dublin City Council had sent out such a high profile representation to meet them. He added that the key challenge for North Tipperary is how to engage in the process as a county and as a county council. They will engage in the environmental impact assessment, he said, and he welcomed the fact that such a positive message has come from the Dublin Manager. It is, he said, important that they continue to get accurate information in relation to every step in the process.
The council members will furnish a list of questions to Dublin City Council in the coming weeks for their attention, which will be returned as soon as the responses are prepared.