BY JACKIE KEOGH
IT was bad news all around for Bandon this week, with the news that two major projects could be facing hold-ups.
A legal challenge involving the Office of Public Works is expected to significantly delay the town’s flood relief system – a project that had been scheduled to start within weeks – a Municipal District meeting in Clonakilty was told.
It was also confirmed that a decision by Irish Water could have dire consequences for phase two of the Bandon Sewerage Scheme, and repercussions nationwide.
Confirmation by the county engineer, David Keane, of the obstacles to both projects are likely to worry and frustrate homeowners and business people in Bandon because ‘it is nothing but delay after delay after delay,’ according to the County Mayor Alan Coleman (FF).
In mid-May 2014, The Southern Star reported that a company that had been interested in securing the flood relief contract was going to mount a legal challenge to the Office of Public Works (OPW) on the basis that the State body did not follow the proper procedure on public procurement.
At that time the OPW halted the process and spent eight months revising and preparing the tendering process. But it was all to no avail because on Monday, it was confirmed that the company in question is taking an injunction against the OPW on this very issue.
‘It is eight months later and we are still in the same situation,’ said Mr Coleman, who was one of a number of councillors to express their dismay, frustration and anger at the meeting.
Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said she was bitterly disappointed that both projects had been ‘plagued with delays.’ She maintained: ‘The people of Bandon have suffered enough. This is turning into a debacle. It must be resolved as soon as possible.’
Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF) claimed: ‘Bandon is being held to ransom. We can’t get even the smallest pothole filled because we are being told to wait until these works have been finalised.’
Immediately after the meeting, Mr Coleman said his office contacted Minister Simon Harris, the Minister of State who has special responsibility for the OPW, to inform him of the sense of outrage in Bandon and to seek a meeting with him.
‘He needs to know that the amount of delay involving Bandon projects is unacceptable,’ the Mayor told The Southern Star.
The second delay in Bandon is also very serious: Mr Coleman explained that the town’s treatment plant – which is located on the Innishannon Road just outside Bandon town – was completed about ten years ago and is in need of some upgrading but is nevertheless sufficient to meet the demands of the town.
The problem is with phase two: the underground pipe network. ‘It is critical,’ said Mr Coleman, ‘that this €6m project is put back on track because there has already been a significant delay.’
Mr Coleman was referring to the decision by the contractor, who actually started the work in 2012, to pull out of the project – something that was felt as a huge financial setback to the town.
At present the underground pipe network is a combined system that takes sewerage and storm water, but the contract started in 2012 was designed to separate the systems so that one pipe would go directly to the sewerage treatment plant and the other would go directly to the river.
However, Irish Water, having carried out a cost benefit analysis, says it intends to re-design the scheme and proceed with the original single pipe system because it would be cheaper to treat everything in the treatment plant. And the company indicated that the new start date – once the redesign has been complete – would be between June and September.
Mr Coleman said: ‘The critical issue in all of this – if Bandon is to expand by building a new housing estate or factory – is that Irish Water will accept foul water from these new developments, but it may not accept any storm water created by them into the new sewer system.
‘This means that the local authority or the private developer – and not Irish Water – would be left with the problem of taking the storm water directly to an outlet, in this case the river.’
On Monday David Keane said that Irish Water believe that a separated system is not something they should fund.
‘Irish Water said we could separate it ourselves, but we would have to come up with the funding to do that,’ said the engineer, who indicated that he would be raising this issue – and particularly the issue pertaining to new connections – with the council’s own planning department.
Mr Keane indicated that he has also raised the matter with the county manager because ‘that principle could apply to every other scheme [in the country], not just Bandon.’