RESIDENTS of Gort are being “driven crazy” by problems with the town’s water supply and Irish Water has been strongly criticised for its handling of the situation.
People in the town were left without water through some of last week’s extreme cold weather, while the town has a boil notice in place just days before Christmas.
Local county councillor Gerry Finnerty said the problems have been going on for a long time, and Irish Water can’t blame it on the frosty weather seen last week.
“The first call I’d have got was in November that there was an outage and that was long before there was any frost, and it’s ongoing since then.
“The outages are unannounced, nobody knows anything, you just turn on the tap and find you don’t have water and it’s just driving people crazy.”
Local TD Ciaran Cannon was also very angry when he spoke to the Clare Champion this week. “We had a very significant boil notice that went on for weeks on end awaiting the installation of a state-of-the-art water filtration facility.
“We assumed that was in place and everything was working as it should, but the whole thing came to a screeching halt when we got a bit of cold weather.
“Obviously the installation was substandard, wasn’t capable of dealing with any kind of difficult weather conditions and it came to a screeching halt.”
As well as being angry with the service Irish Water provides, he was angry with its approach to the public.
“The communication of all of this has been appalling. Absolutely appalling from beginning to end. No sense of any obligation to their consumers or customers to inform them of regular updates as to what was happening.”
He said even the public’s elected representatives can’t get answers.
“There’s no concession to public representatives that they be kept informed as to how things are developing.
“Ultimately we’re the conduit, the intermediary between the national utility and the people of Gort, but we’re as much in the dark as they are and finding it exceptionally hard to get information. They should be deeply ashamed of themselves for what they have done and continue to do right up until today.”
While one Irish Water official told him the problems had been due to “unprecedented” weather conditions, he said this was obviously not true.
“It wasn’t unprecedented, not remotely unprecedented. We live in the northern hemisphere, it gets cold up here, and every now and again it gets exceptionally cold.
“The first time your new filtration system had to deal with an exceptionally cold spell it was incapable of doing so, therefore you made a mess of installing it.”
Things got particularly bad on Friday of last week, when people had to contend with extreme temperatures as well as not having water.
Councillor Finnerty said, “The water was turned off on Thursday evening and it was off all day on Friday and didn’t come back until 1am on Saturday morning. It was one of the coldest days of the year, one of the busiest shopping days of the year for the town.
“If you take people like hairdressers and people in the hospitality sector, they suffered a lot. You had publicans bringing in water in drums, putting in cisterns to keep toilets flowing, and they couldn’t do food or anything.”
However the quality of the water subsequently left a lot to be desired, he added.
“What came out of the taps on Sunday was the same as if it was urine, terrible looking stuff.”
By Tuesday the improvement in the water colour had been relatively marginal, he claimed.
Eoin Hughes of Irish Water said that the utility is doing what it can to get on top of the issues.
“We understand the community’s frustration and can ensure everyone that we are working tirelessly to resolve the issues. A number of issues have come together to cause the current difficulties.
“Before the cold weather took hold there were a number of leaks on the network and these drained reservoirs to low levels across the scheme. On the weekend of December 12-13 the cold weather caused severe operational difficulties at the treatment plant. As a result, a Boil Water Notice was issued last Monday and this remains in place.
“There were further issues caused by the freezing conditions towards the end of last week leading to the plant being shut down. The plant was brought back into production late Friday night.
“However there are currently very high levels of water demand on the scheme and we are appealing to local people to do what they can to reduce their use where possible.”
Irish Water also said it had identified a significant leak in the town, which it was repairing on Tuesday.
“We thank the local community for their patience and for continuing to conserve water by turning off taps and checking for leaks in outside taps or unoccupied premises. As the Boil Water Notice remains, we advise all customers on this supply to boil water before use until further notice,” Mr Hughes added.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.