Thursday, 22 January 2009

€35m sewerage plant payment defended

Dublin City Council and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have defended the payment of €35 million to the developers of the Ringsend sewerage plant, which has emitted foul odours since its construction in 2003.

Minister for the Environment, John Gormley TD last year ordered an inquiry after it emerged that the company responsible for its design, construction and operation - ABA (Anglian Water Group, Black & Veatch and Ascon) - was paid the settlement. The inquiry, conducted by consultant Brendan Fehily, found that the contract between the council and ABA allowed odour levels 20 times higher than those stipulated in the project’s environmental impact statement.

This was “either a serious error of judgment or a mistake” Mr Fehily said. He also found the capacity needed had been underestimated by the equivalent of waste from 225,000 people. The inquiry’s report, published last November, has been presented to an Oireachtas environment committee. Mr Fehily said the odour problems were mostly “created by inadequate design and equipment failure”.

When asked by Fine Gael Senator Paudi Coffey about the settlement, Tom Corcoran, Assistant Secretary with the Department of the Environment, said it could have been higher. “The final sum was €35 million, but €171.8 million had been the claim from the contractor for additional costs” associated with solving the odour problem, increasing sludge-drying capacity, upgrading electricity standards and dealing with additional waste. After negotiations, €100 million remained in dispute - Mr Corcoran said - and “a €35 million settlement was reached”.

The Irish Times

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