Castletownbere, Timoleague and Castletownshend are amongst 42 urban areas mentioned in the latest EPA report on the treatment of waste water, or lack of it, as the case may be. In its Urban Waste Water Report, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, again highlights the scale of raw sewage being released into rivers and bathing areas. Despite numerous warnings from the EU, as well as our own environmental watchdogs, successive governments have failed to invest in the necessary infrastructure to eliminate this occurrence, where little or no treatment of waste water takes place.
Many of the areas mentioned in the report are scenic areas that have a high dependency on tourism. West Cork Sinn Fein’s Paul Hayes said, “It’s an absolute disgrace that in this day and age, raw sewage is spewing into our beautiful rivers and coastal areas without being treated. Chambers of Tourism and voluntary committees, such as Tidy Towns, put in huge effort to beautify their area and attract tourists only to be undermined by a lack of political will to get these vital infrastructural projects completed. Reports and Environmental Impact Studies have been done and re-done in many cases, yet plans to progress these water treatment plants remain tied-up in the bureaucracy of local authorities.”
The influx of tourists to West Cork during the summer months puts extra strain on already inadequate water treatment systems. Commenting on the situation in the Timoleague/Courtmacsherry Bay area, where Paul is a resident, he says “we have a wonderful natural amenity on our doorstep here, and as soon as the sun appears, locals and visitors alike head to the beaches and enjoy an array of water sports — rowing, sailing, fishing, but if you’re not sure of some of the areas to avoid, you could literally find yourself swimming in the filthy water. Promises from elected representatives have been repeatedly made and broken and people are wondering will things ever change when they see taxpayers money being squandered instead of being spent on these vital projects.”
At the other end of the West Cork constituency, the lack of investment in water services is also impeding economic growth. Castletownbere has been left behind other towns in the county and lacks a proper water supply and treatment system. SF’s Paul Hayes, whose mother hails from Bere Island, points out that, as well as the appalling sight of raw sewage in the bay, the area is at a huge disadvantage economically — “for an area that’s so dependent on fishing and fish processing, a decent water supply system is paramount, and the lack of this is impeding the expansion of fish factories and relative industries in the town.”
Expressing little confidence in Irish Water, the new company charged with the management of water supply and treatment services, SF’s local election candidate believes the Government is “throwing good money after bad’ in the set-up of the new utility company.