Farmers urged to tread carefully on CPO well deals
FARMERS and landowners in County Wexford are being advised to tread carefully following cases in which the local authority has placed CPOs on their land to sink wells to augment public supplies.
Solicitor John G. Murphy, from John A Sinnott & Co Solicitors, said he wanted to highlight the issue following recent cases in Wexford in which farmers have sought advice after the CPO has been made and a well has been put in place.
Mr Murphy said farmers should seek advice during negotiations with local authorities, not after the event.
'Everyone is aware of the most unfortunate and divisive saga about water charges. Frequently, people will say water charges are ridiculous, that this is Ireland and there is no shortage of water.
'Do we need to prepare at all for water services in Ireland given the amount of rain that falls? The reality is that we most certainly do,' said Mr Murphy.
He said lakes, rivers and reservoirs deplete in a dry spell, so clearly other sources of water must also be tapped. There is an alternative water source deep underground in aquifers which run below the earth's surface.
'It is in this context that farmers would have experienced local authorities acquiring, either by agreement or by compulsory purchase order (CPO), portions of their land in which to drill a borehole and put in a well, designed to augment local public water supplies.
'Irish Water is now in charge of this enterprise but it is frequently still administered by personnel connected to the relevant local authority under guidance from Irish Water. Mr Murphy said that over the years, he had seen several examples of small pieces of land given for little or nothing to councils to allow wells to be put in place.
'Times have changed however. We are now faced with a much more structured regulatory environment concerning water, the sources of water and the protection of these sources.
'What do you know for instance about the quality or lack of quality of the well that has been put in place on your land? Do you know anything about exclusion zones? Mr Murphy said various EU directives have been transposed into Irish legislation and these must be considered when negotiating your compensation with the local authority for the acquisition of the small plot of land on which the well will be based. 'What account have you taken of a potential exclusion zone? This is a zone which can be imposed on you and which could be anything up to 200m or more in diameter, where for instance you could be excluded from spreading any fertiliser. 'What effect would this have on your farming operations? These are items which need very, very careful consideration and evaluation before any compensation package is concluded with Irish Water or a local authority in relation to the acquisition of any portion of your farm,' said the Enniscorthy-based solicitor.