THERE will be no financial compensation for those affected by recent water restrictions in North and West Clare, Clare County Council and Irish Water have said.
The Kildysart and Corofin public water supplies were both subject to restrictions, following separate incidents. Councillor Christy Curtin requested a report on them at a recent meeting of the West Clare Municipal Area, which now includes Corofin and other parts of North Clare.
He asked that the report outline the “arrangements with Irish Water for a water rates rebate to the affected customers”. He expressed his confidence in local authority staff but said “the jury is out on Irish Water”, after a council official outlined the work carried out to monitor and restore the water supply to the two areas recently.
Carmel Greene, senior executive officer at the Water Services Department in the council, gave a lengthy written response. She said that on July 29 in Kildysart, “The HSE, in conjunction with Clare County Council and Irish Water, advised, as a precautionary measure, that water on this scheme was not suitable for drinking, due to the discolouration of the water, caused by increased manganese levels in the public water supply. “In the period following, the water quality improved, as a result of the ongoing modifications to the water treatment process. The customers of Kildysart and the Kildysart-Coolmeen Group Water Supply Scheme were affected and water tankers were made available for the four-week period that the notice was in place,” she outlined.
Ms Greene said, “Considerable work was done by the council staff in this period to restore supplies, including attending the plant day and night, taking samples, adjusting plant functions, modification of the lake intake system, mains flushing and transporting samples for testing to Galway. This work was done to expedite the removal of the restrictions imposed by the HSE. “Regarding Corofin (and Ruan), the restriction on use of the public water supply was put in place, following an alert by council staff of an algal bloom in Inchiquin Lake, the source of the water supply, and examination by the council and the HSE of the potential health risk associated with toxins from this algae. “The algal bloom arose due to the extended period of dry weather, elevated temperatures and reduced water levels in the lake,”
Ms Greene continued. “An estimated 1,800 customers were affected. A plant shut-down was put in place within hours of noticing the change in the lake colour and departures from standards on test results carried out at the Treatment Plant Pumping arrangements were put in place to provide an alternative supply from tankered water from Ennis to preserve water supply to both Ruan and Corofin,” she said.
“An emergency connection to the Toonagh-Dysert Group Water Supply Scheme was put in place and, again, the council crews worked at night and weekends to deal with the situation. Subsequent monitoring of flows, tankering, water quality and leak detection is ongoing and investigation into alternative supply lines and future preventative measures with a view to achieving best value for money is being researched,” she went on.
Ms Greene said she contacted Irish Water in relation to their policy on rebates in water charges for the affected customers. “As domestic water charges will not be introduced until October 1, they have advised that a rebate of water charges does not arise for the domestic customers. In relation to non-domestic customers who would not have used the public supply in this period, they will only be charged based on volumes of water actually used,” Ms Greene concluded.
Councillor Curtin expressed his confidence in the county council staff at the meeting but said, “The jury is out on Irish Water.”
Councillor Richard Nagle suggested that the council retain the emergency connection to the Toonagh-Dysert Group Water, in case an issue arose with the Corofin Ruan scheme again in the future.
While rebates could not be made available to private households as water charges were not yet in place, Councillor PJ Kelly pointed out that customers were still out of pocket, citing damage to clothes and ceramics.
“If the water does that damage to clothes and ceramics, what would it do if you drank it?” he asked. Director of services with the council, Ann Haugh acknowledged the inconvenience to customers in the affected areas but pointed out that the issue in Kildysart was to do with manganese levels, resulting in discolouration of the water and that the problem in Ruan and Corofin was caused by an algal bloom which “could not be avoided”.