FIRE crews from Ennis, Scariff and Kilrush had to be drafted in by Clare County Council to augment the water supply for more than 30,000 consumers last weekend, following failures at the new €9.8 million Ennis Water Treatment Plant.
The breakdown has prompted a call from Fine Gael Deputy Joe Carey for a ‘plan B’ water source for Ennis and its environs.
Deputy Carey claimed the deployment of fire tenders was further evidence of the impracticality of the current water supply.
“The town of Ennis and its environs, including Barefield and Clarecastle, can no longer depend on a single water source.
“The 30,000 consumers of the Ennis water supply have had to tolerate many interruptions in supply for nearly six years, with boil notice after boil notice. The Ennis Water Augmentation Scheme needs to be prioritised and delivered.
“This scheme will provide an alternative option, a plan B for the local authority with a new water source for Ennis.
“Ennis needs an alternative to guarantee an uninterrupted quality water supply for Ennis. It’s glaringly obvious we now need a long-term solution to this ongoing problem.”
The council is in discussions at senior level with the operating contractor, EPS-Bowen Ltd, with a view to rectifying the situation.
Regarding the long-term strategy for water supply to Ennis, the council stated current demand is about 16,000 cubic metres (3.52 million gallons) per day. The Drumcliffe treatment plant is designed to treat a maximum of 18,000 cubic metres per day (3.96 million gallons), which is also the maximum that can be drawn from the Drumcliffe spring.
Senior executive engineer, Sean Ward, admitted the biggest problem in Ennis is that a high percentage of the water produced by the treatment plant leaks away before it reaches the consumers.
A sum of €6.2 million has been allocated by the Government for mains rehabilitation in Ennis. The council is currently planning this project, which is likely to start construction in early to mid-2011, to replace or upgrade approximately 18km of mains in Ennis and nearby areas. Its purpose is to make a significant reduction in demand by replacing leaking mains with new mains.
“Government policy is that new water sources and increased abstraction from existing sources will only be considered when best possible use is being made of existing systems, through reduction of leakage.
“Both the council and consumers have roles to play in this – the council by rehabilitating its own mains and consumers by minimising their consumption of water and by checking and repairing leaks on their plumbing systems.
“Even with the best possible results from water conservation, Ennis may grow sufficiently in future to need more than 18,000 cubic metres per day, in which case an additional source will need to be examined.
“New mains were laid from the Shannon-Sixmilebridge supply drawn from Castle Lake, Kilmurry along the M18 and N85 and these will shortly be handed over the council,” he said.
“Some works will be needed to connect the new mains into the Ennis network so that the Shannon-Sixmilebridge water can assist Drumcliffe; this connection is likely to be in place by late 2010 or early 2011. However, this will be able to supply only an amount equal to the spare treatment capacity at Castle Lake, currently approx. 2,000 cubic metres (440,000 gallons) per day.
“To draw more water from Castle Lake or any other existing source, or tap into a new source, the council will have to go through a lengthy process of seeking an abstraction order.
“It is likely that stringent new abstraction regulations will be made under the European Water Framework Directive, enacted in Ireland by the 2009 River Basin Management Plans.
“It would take several years to bring any increased or new source into production,” Mr Ward added.
Supply difficulties labelled ‘unsatisfactory’
Clare County Council had to transport 6,500 cubic metres of water from the main reservoir serving Sixmilebridge and Shannon to the Ennis Reservoir following difficulties with the Ennis Water Treatment Plant last weekend.
Water tankers had to be used by the council from 6pm on Saturday until 6pm on Monday.
The failure of the new €9.8 million Ennis Water Treatment Plant to produce an adequate supply of water for Ennis and its environs was described as “unsatisfactory” at the Ennis East Electoral Area meeting on Monday.
Town manager Ger Dollard admitted the council was not happy with the breakdown that arose at the new Drumcliffe Water Treatment Plant.
Mr Dollard told councillors he was glad the situation was efficiently managed due to the dedication of council staff who worked throughout the weekend to ensure consumers were not adversely affected.
Senior executive engineer Eamon O’Dea explained problems had emerged at the plant after a spell of dry weather was followed by an extended period of heavy rainfall.
He told councillors the average rainfall for August was less than previous years but noted that 70mls of rain had fallen in the county during the first two weeks of September.
Despite the provision of a council helpline, Mr O’Dea noted that the authority hadn’t received any calls.
Stressing the council never actually shut off the Ennis supply, he noted the only exception was in Considine’s Terrace, because of a leak.
Stating that filtration and chlorinating of the water supply took place in full, the council decided to turn down the level of the flow from the plant to ensure that all areas of the town would be provided with a supply.
It was also decided to augment the Ennis Water Supply with water from the Shannon Supply.
Councillor Johnny Flynn wondered who would pay for the cost of providing additional water from water tankers because of the breakdown in the plant.
He claimed the problems had developed at the plant because of the absence of adequate pre-filtration systems and called for a doubling of the size of the existing reservoir from 3.5 to 7 million gallons to meet international standards.
He pointed out a scheme was also needed to address the 50% of leakage in the Ennis Water Supply.