Fullerton's clean water vision
BY ROISIN DE ROSA
It's a beautiful spot, high up in the mountains, a marvellous tourist resort for fishing and boating, yet there is not even a sign to mark the Fullerton Pollan Dam or to remember Eddie Fullerton's vision for the area. It's like the bridge in Buncrana across which Wolfe Tone must have passed, which Donegal County Council now wants to call `Victoria Bridge'. It's as if the county councillors want to write out of history our republican heritage, and with it the memory of Councillor Eddie Fullerton.
The night that Eddie Fullerton was killed, 25 May 1991, when loyalist gunmen broke into his house in Buncrana and gunned him down, was the very same night that the contract to build the Fullerton Pollan Dam was signed.
``The £27 million dam was the culmination of one of my father's dreams, to provide clean water supply to all the small villages and townlands in the area of St. Johnstown and Carrigans,'' says his son, Albert Fullerton. ``But it hasn't happened. My father's plan was a pumping station at Bridgend, and then to pipe the water off to Carrigans and St. Johnstown. As it is these areas still pay £500,000 per annum to buy their water across the border. The county council plan is to pipe the water straight through Manorcunningham to Letterkenny, Donegal's projected boomtown, and not to spend £5 million on a spur pipeline to feed these smaller villages.
``Its typical of Donegal County Council's neglect of Buncrana and the Inishowen peninsula down the years,'' Sinn Féin Councillor Jim Ferry says. ``We've serious unemployment, jobs lost, and a lack of tourist facilities here in Buncrana, yet resources are all channelled to Letterkenny.''
Meanwhile, there are serious problems of a clean water supply. Many areas, like Megnaghgorey, Kinnego, Sledrin have been advised to boil their water before drinking it. The National School in Desertegney has threatened to close unless it gets clean drinking water.
All over the country there is trouble with drinking water. It is polluted by e-coli, which is an indication of human or animal faecal matter in the water supply. There have been warnings in recent months in Sligo, Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, where people have been advised to boil their drinking water. In other areas, people have to fetch their own clean water themselves, the supplied water is so badly polluted.
The latest `national scare' was in Belfast, last September, where many families in the city came down with `a bug' as a result of a parasite, Crytosporidium, which had infected the water coming from the Mourne Mountains into Belfast's water supply. This contamination was particularly serious because boiling the water could not be relied on to wipe out the bug.
The last EPA survey of drinking water showed that an astounding 42% of group water schemes in the 26 Counties are contaminated. The Dublin government faces legal action in the EU because it has failed to ensure that drinking water conforms with EU standards.
Paradoxically, many people blame the EU and its CAP policies for the polluted water. High sheep premiums encouraged farmers to overpopulate the mountain areas with sheep. The sheep eat the undergrowth, causing serious erosion of the mountain and the consequent run-off into the water supply of contaminated water. However, as a spokesperson for the Friends of the Irish Environment points out, ``the only time the government takes action to address the problem is when they have been threatened by the EU Commission''.
In July, Environemnt minister Noel Dempsey announced unprecedented funding of £2.1 billion in water and sewage treatment over the next five years. £420 million between now and 2006 is to be spent on group water schemes.
Jim Ferry asks, however, whether the funding will help the people of his area to get the water that Eddie Fullerton envisaged. ``Is this funding to be directed to provide clean water for everyone in the country or is it to ensure that the large towns get access to good supply of cheap water for potential industrial needs?'' he asks.
``I am concerned that this funding may be just another means whereby the government hopes to offload the provision of clean water onto the people themselves, through group water schemes, which people themselves will have to pay to maintain? The big money will go to the big towns with the big voting strengths and the promise of big industry, and Inishowen will once again be neglected.''