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Photograph by John Kelly

Irish Water accused of ‘double standards’

Irish Water has been accused of engaging in “double standards” by meeting county councillors in private about some issues, while offering to make a presentation about the controversial Lough Derg abstraction project at their July meeting.
The charge has been levelled by Councillor Pat Hayes, who has opted to boycott Irish Water’s regular meetings with his colleagues in the Killaloe Muncipal District Area, concerning billing and maintenance issues.
Councillor Hayes took the stance after the national water authority refused to send one of its representatives to a full council meeting where issues could be debated in public and reported on by local media.
The Fianna Fáil councillor believes IW is engaging in “double standards” by offering to send representatives to the full council meeting because of its desire to press ahead with the contentious water abstraction from Lough Derg.
He said local councillors are strongly opposed to IW’s plans to take water from Lough Derg to boost Dublin’s water supplies.
Responding to this claim, an Irish Water spokeswoman said IW meets with councillors every month on all aspects of the business.
“In addition to this, IW have specific teams working on projects such as the water supply project, where additional engagement will be undertaken.
“IW also has a special phoneline for all councillors, who can phone us with any questions and issues.
“In this regard, IW provides extensive engagement for local councillors, well above what any other national utility provides,” the spokeswoman stated.
The River Shannon Protection Alliance (RSPA) estimates that up to 350 million litres of water could be taken from Lough Derg by 2030, if Irish Water implements previous plans by Dublin City Council to address chronic water shortages in the region.
However, a recent report revealed there is a “pressing need” for an additional supply of some 330 million litres of water by 2050. Options include taking water from the River Shannon and storing it in a reservoir to be built in the midlands, or constructing desalination plants.
Dublin and the eastern region currently draw about 623 million litres of water a day, most of it from the River Liffey, which is treated in Ballymore Eustace (310 million litres a day) and Leixlip (215 million litres).
Opposition to taking water from Lough Derg has already been expressed in submissions sent to IW by the RSPA, which was endorsed by group member Councillor Pat Burke and supported by the other five councillors in the Killaloe Municipal District, as well as East Clare Tourism chairman, Tomás Botcher from the Lakeside Caravan and Camping Site, Mountshannon.
In a recent letter sent to Clare County Council, Irish Water’s parent company, Ervia, suggests meeting the council in July.
Ervia managing director, John Barry, noted representatives from IW previously met with East Clare councillors at a municipal district meeting in Scariff in July 2014 and are due to meet again, subject to the local authority confirming the meeting, in mid-July, to discuss the project and provide an update.
IW is set to publish what it calls an Options Working Paper (OWP) next month, which will allow it put forward its ideal option.
“This will essentially pave the way for IW to reach a view on the least constrained in infrastructural locations and pipeline corridor options later this year, following the consultations and indeed the submission IW receives on the OWP.
“IW do hold regional clinics and the staff that attend these from IW are fully briefed on the project. I would suggest this might be the method of information flow in the meantime, until we have a full session with the elected members later this year,” Mr Barry stated in the letter.
While Councillor Burke welcomed the proposed meeting between IW and members of the Killaloe Municipal District in mid-July, he expressed grave concern about some of the contents of Mr Barry’s letter, which he said suggests the water abstraction is “already a fait accompli”.
He claimed this is in sharp contrast to a previous briefing session conducted by IW officials at a district meeting, where they outlined they were still looking at a number of options, including fixing leaks, water desalination and the possible water abstraction from Lough Derg.
Councillor Burke recalled the IW officials had pledged to provide further information about these options but failed to do so.
Acknowledging some of the private meetings between IW officials and local councillors concerning issues related to billing and metering has been beneficial, he said the Lough Derg water abstraction project is a completely different project, that doesn’t come under many of IW staff’s area of expertise.

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