Watery welcome for ‘Big Phil’

TORRENTIAL rain and protestors greeted Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan when he arrived to open the new €24 million Tullamore Wastewater Treatment Plant and Sludge Treatment Plant last Thursday.

TORRENTIAL rain and protestors greeted Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan when he arrived to open the new €24 million Tullamore Wastewater Treatment Plant and Sludge Treatment Plant last Thursday.

A handful of protestors took a stand in the miserable conditions against the Household Charges.

“The lads at the top of the road couldn’t see me too well through the car. That’s why they didn’t join us,” Minister Hogan remarked in his speech.

“Big Phil” said he was “only looking for an excuse to come to Offaly”.

He said the €24 million project which was 22% funded by Offaly County Council would make sure the Tullamore Dew Distillery had good water to make whiskey. He said the €35 million investment which would create employment could not have happened without this investment.

Speaking to Offaly County Council Chairman Danny Owens Minister Hogan said he had “lost his hair worrying about Offaly” referring to hurling rivalries and when Cllr Owens remarked he was losing his, the minister responded “that’s what politics did to us.”

Cllr Owens said the council recognised the importance of investment to enable development and said the plant was very significant development for potential job creation.

“Offaly County Council provided €5.4 million from our own resources. This came from development charges. Development charges get a bad rap, but now people can see how they are used,” said Cllr Owens.

County Manager Pat Gallagher said the plant would ensure the economical and environmental development of Tullamore.

Speaking of the development levies that went towards the council’s contribution Mr Gallagher said it was important to acknowledge how the contribution to the public purse can be traced back to important projects like this.

The plant will cater for 45,000 population equivilant in wastewater treatment and 80,000 population equivialnt for sluge treatment. “It will serve the gateway well into the future,” said Mr Gallagher.

He said the previous plant had been built to cater for 16,000 population equivilant but with diligent operation, operated at 25,000 population equivilant.

He paid tribute to all staff, serving and retired, who were involved in the project.

Master of Ceremonies, Sean Murray, Director of Services paid tribute to all the council Water Services staff.

Monsignor Sean Heaney blessed the facility.

The rain gave way just long enough for Minister Hogan to unveil a plaque, before the downpour began again.