Monday 17 September 2007

Row as €20,000 for sewage study goes down the drain

A local authority is being asked to explain how over €200,000 was spent unnecessarily on a study for a proposed sewage plant.

It has emerged that Donegal County Council commissioned an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on a controversial plant for Moville/Greencastle at an estimated cost of €220,000 only to learn from An Bord Pleanala that such a study was not required under new legislation introduced last year.

Local objectors to the plant are now calling on the Comptroller and Auditor General to carry out "an in-depth analysis" of the Council's spending on the proposed scheme over three decades.

An amendment to the Strategic Infrastructural Bill 2006, introduced to fast track infrastructural projects, stipulates that an EIS is only required for a project designed for a "population equivalent of 10,000 or more".

The "population equivalent" of the proposed site on the banks of Lough Foyle at Carnagarve is 8,800. For projects serving a population equivalent of less than 10,000, the local authority is required to list any potential environmental impact in its submission and the planning board determines whether an EIS is necessary.

Exceptions can be made if the project is to be located in an Special Area of Conservation but this is not the case with this scheme.

"It beggars belief that Donegal County Council did not know this. We are demanding accountability for the potential squandering of hundreds of thousands of euro," said Enda Craig, spokesperson for the Campaign for a Clean Estuary group.

He revealed that another EIS and Hydrographic Study was carried out in 1990 on the same site at a cost of IR£180,000.

Local Sinn Fein councillor, Padraig MacLochlainn, who is endorsing the group's call for a review of spending, described it as "a monumental error".

"They clearly rushed headlong into the study without reading the legislation before they wrote the cheque. It is a major blunder and the council should put its hands up and admit that," he said.

The group is calling for the resignation of the County Manager Michael McLoone.A spokesperson for Donegal County Council said that Mr McLoone would be bringing a report before a meeting of the Council at the end of September.

Since it was first earmarked, the site has been dogged with controversy.

It is situated within 170 metres of a Gaelscoil and GAA pitch and in close proximity to approximately 100 houses. 400 metres away on Lafferty's Lane, raw sewage will be pumped from an estimated 60 houses to a vented holding tank beside a beach and picnic area and a number of private homes, including one owned by Nobel prizewinner, John Hume.

Enda Craig described it as "a cheap and nasty solution" to a problem which has been ongoing for over 30 years.

"The most sensible, reasonable location is north east of Greencastle, away from the tidal estuary of Lough Foyle," he said.

But the council has maintained that "considerable time, effort and expense had been put into public consultation" and also that the site at Carnagarve was the "optimum solution".

Irish Independent

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