Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dick Roche as Pontius Pilate: Irish Water Pollution

As Minister for the Environment Dick Roche, engages in the blame game on responsibility for the water debacle in Galway, this is what the European Commission said on March 22nd, 2007 on the Irish Government's negligence on the provision of drinkable water:

The European Commission is sending Ireland a final written warning for failing to comply fully with a 2002 European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling requiring drinking water supplies to be kept free of E.coli bacteria. It is sending Ireland a similar warning for failing to comply with a 2005 ECJ ruling requiring greater controls on polluting discharges to surface water by local authorities.

If the responses are unsatisfactory, the Commission may ask the ECJ to impose financial penalties on Ireland. The Commission is also referring Ireland to the ECJ for failing to give adequate rights to citizens to legally challenge decisions in cases involving environmental impact assessments and integrated pollution prevention and control. At the same time, action taken by Ireland to ban drift-netting of Atlantic wild salmon at sea has allowed a case to be closed.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “I am concerned that, more than four years after a court ruling, and despite substantial Government investments, a significant number of local authority and private water supplies still show a presence of e.coli. This needs to be resolved without further delay."

European Commission takes action to secure Irish clean drinking water as 60 people infected by water contamination in Galway

RTE Radio 1 Morning Ireland Programme, April 04, 2007 on water quality in Galway:

Environmental scientist Roderick O'Sullivan says he found huge levels of faecal contamination in a survey in 1995

Audio - Real Player should be installed

In the Irish Times on Saturday, March 31st, readers commented:

Madam, - In response to questioning on water pollution in Galway, Minister for the Environment Dick Roche repeatedly stated that he had allocated €21 million in 2002 to upgrade the water schemes in the county.

A preliminary report for a sewage treatment plant in Kinvara was submitted by Galway County Council to Mr Roche for his approval in October 2002. As a member of the Kinvara action group Cairde Cuan Chinn Mhara, I was a member of a delegation which met Mr Éamon Ó Cuív in an effort to speed up the process of approval. He told us very frankly that in his experience the longest hold-up in the process would be at the Department of Environment level.

Approval for the scheme was granted by the Department in December 2006 after a very active campaign by local people.Galway County Council have now - four years after the submission of its scheme - proceeded to detailed design and will then tender and finally commence construction.

Meanwhile, when you flush your toilet in the village of Kinvara, the waste exits directly into Kinvara Bay, which is itself an offshoot of Galway Bay, without filtration or treatment.

Why should communities have to spend time and effort in a prolonged effort to get what is a basic service? I have no doubt that there are many Kinvaras all over this country, after 10 years of economic boom.

Take a bow, Minister Roche.The buck stops with you. -

Yours, etc,

MARIA HANNIGAN, Cairde Cuan Chinn Mhara, Kinvara, Co Galway.

Madam, - At the recent Fianna Fáil Ardfheis, a motion was passed calling for the suspension of "no notice" cross-compliance farm inspections and the introduction of a 14-day notice period for all future inspections.

Similarly, the Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, met the IFA Executive Council on Wednesday March 21st, and promised that if Fine Gael were elected to government, "no notice" farm inspections would end and the IFA's demands for 14 days notice of such inspections would be met.

Cross-compliance relates to 19 management practices that farmers are required to implement if they wish to qualify for the Single Farm Payment. Four of the 19 practices relate to the prevention of water pollution.

At the same time, hundreds of people in Co Galway have contracted illnesses due to contamination of their drinking water supply, and over 90,000 people are boiling tap water before they can use it.

If it is the case that the contamination of the water supply in Co Galway is due to agricultural pollution, will Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael still honour these commitments to farmers? Or will they finally acknowledge that agricultural pollution of drinking water is a serious issue in the west of Ireland, and forego the electoral endorsement of the IFA in the interests of public health? -

Yours, etc,

GARRETH McDAID, Drumleague, Co Leitrim.

Madam, - I am not surprised to hear that Mr Dick Roche does not want "to get into the blame game". As Minister for Environment, he has ultimate responsibility for the public water supply.

It does not matter who is to blame; he is responsible for making sure nothing like this happens.

In other civilised countries he would be in serious trouble for an entire city being left with contaminated water - more particularly, contaminated with a parasite that can be spread from person to person.

Is there anything worse that could happen for which the Minister has responsibility? Will we find out about contamination anywhere else before half of us fall ill? -

Yours, etc,

CONAL WATTERSON, Patrickswell, Co Limerick.

As to Conal Watterson's rhetorical question, most people know the answer, if one is actually needed:

A Banjaxed System of Public Governance where the Buck Stops Nowhere