Source of local water supply as subject of Irish petition
On Tuesday, 27th February, a delegation from Kildimo and Pallaskenry in Limerick attended a meeting of the Petitions Committee to ask the European Parliament to help them put a stop to local authority plans to change the source of their water supply. On the basis of their arguments, the Committee decided to visit Bleach Lough Spring and the Shannon Estuary Water Supply Scheme when they travel to Ireland later this year on a fact-finding mission to examine the implementation of the EU's water directives in Ireland.
Why a petition?
Dan Foley, a resident of Pallaskenry, led the delegation which first submitted a petition early in 2006. The petition argues that the current source of water for the residents of Kildimo and Pallaskenry (Bleach Lough Spring) is of 'very good quality' and that the alternative source suggested by the local authorities (the River Deel) is not only polluted by dead animals and raw sewage, but is also very heavily treated with chemicals by the Shannon Estuary Water Supply Scheme. The petitioners submitted photographs as evidence of pollution on the River Deel, arguing that changing the water supply would be damaging to the health of residents in the surrounding areas.
Why change the water supply? - what the local authorities say
In their response to questions relating to this petition, the local authorities pointed out that the current source of water (Bleach Lough Spring) is vulnerable to pollution and that the projected demands on this water supply would be unacceptable. They argue that a change to the Shannon Estuary Water Supply Scheme would be 'more effective and economical'. The local authorities also point out that they held a public consultation in 2002 during which only 8.6% of those who attended were against a change in the source of the water supply in the area.
Action by the residents of Kildimo and Pallaskenry
Members of the Water Retention Committee, led by Dan Foley, are standing guard against the extension of the pipeline which is intended to link Kildimo and Pallaskenry to the Shannon Estuary Water Supply Scheme. The local authorities already received a High Court Injunction against seven members of the Water Retention Committee in June 2006. For their part, the Water Retention Committee is currently seeking a judicial review of the decision to change the source of the water supply in the Irish High Court.
Dan Foley claims that
"The Department [of the Environment in Ireland] should have confidence in the preservation of the present source and that we will have an improvement rather than a disimprovement in the environment. If they are not confident that that would be the case they should introduce protective measures to ensure that it is the case."
This issue was first discussed in the Seanad (the Irish Senate) in 1991.
Kathy Sinnott (Ind. - South), who is currently Vice-Chairwoman of the Petitions Committee, stated that
"I am confident that the petitions committee will listen to the people of Pallaskenry and recommend a solution that will be acceptable to all the communities of West Limerick while preserving the right of people to retain their natural water supply."
Marian Harkin (Ind. - North West) said:
"..I welcome an Irish visit by any European Parliament committee - particularly by the Petitions committee, as this is in the spirit of openness and overcoming a 'democratic deficit', [and] I will be happy to participate in such a visit."