THE PLAN to abstract water from the river Sheen to supplement Kenmare’s water supply represented the first major upgrade of the supply “in over 80 years”, an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into the proposal was told yesterday.
The hearing, attended by more than 80 locals and experts at the Kenmare Bay Hotel, was told of the rapid growth experienced by the Co Kerry town in recent years.
The town grew so fast in the three years to 2005 that it reached house numbers predicted for 2021 almost two decades ahead of schedule, the hearing was told.
Kerry County Council is seeking an order under the Water Supplies Act to supplement current abstraction from Lough Eirk with additional water from a new source adjacent to Sheen Falls, southwest of the town.
However, there is strong opposition among farmers upriver at Bonane, who fear their lands will be sterilised. Anglers, too, are opposed because the Sheen is an important salmon and sea trout river, while the town’s chamber of commerce feels it would be more cost-effective to augment the current water sources.
They also dispute the claimed amount of water needed, given the decline in building in Kenmare.
Maura Joy, senior executive engineer with the county council, said the Kenmare water scheme was largely put place in 1928. The main source was a small corrie lake, Lough Eirk, alongside the Moll’s Gap tourist spot.
The water was taken from a stream into the lake and then flowed by gravity into a reservoir.
“The only form of treatment the water currently receives is the addition of chlorine as a disinfectant against bacteriological contamination,” Ms Joy said.
This did not meet the drinking water standards and was a cause of concern, Ms Joy said. A number of other schemes from outlying towns – Kilgarvan and Templenoe and Dawros – were used to supplement the Kenmare supply and two of these did not have treatment, Ms Joy outlined.
Some 2,000 cubic metres a day was the maximum available currently. This was not enough long term and Kenmare needed 4,500 cubic metres, the council felt.
The council had been attempting to resolve the Kenmare supply since 2001, she said. A €4 million upgrade of the network had been carried out but a €5 million water treatment plant is still needed.
However, the Department of the Environment was reluctant to approve the treatment plant contract until the supplementary source had been agreed, she told the meeting.
The proposal to abstract 2,500 cubic metres of water from the Sheen river will involve pumping water from the river and this combined with Lough Eirk and the Dawros option would cost €2.7 million. The water would not be taken during the dry season.
Other options including using mountain lakes could cost three times this, and would run into planning difficulties with wildlife legislation, the meeting heard.
The hearing, under chairman Danny O’Connor, continues today with contributions from those opposing.