After boil-water notice, Irish Water must be held accountable, says politicians

by Gary Ibbotson
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Calls have been made for Irish Water to explain how contaminated water was allowed to enter the water supplies of over 600,000 people last week.

On Tuesday, October 22, Irish Water issued a boil-water notice for households in North Co. Dublin Kildare and Meath as untreated water – containing cryptosporidium and giardia parasites – seeped into the fresh water supply caused by a “small mechanical failure” at Leixlip Treatment Plant.

The boil-water notice was lifted on Friday after an audit was taken at the plant.

The decision was jointly made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the HSE and Fingal County Council.

Now, however, local politicians and activists are calling on Irish Water to explain what caused the oversight.

Housing Minister, Eoghan Murphy TD said that he was “extremely concerned to hear that the EPA found no system was in place to respond adequately to process alarms at the water treatment plant serving a major part of our capital city and surrounding area.

“Irish Water must now work with Fingal County Council to ensure there is no repeat of this type of incident,” he said.

Representatives of Irish Water have agreed to appear in front of the Oireachtas housing committee next month to answer questions on the mechanical failure. Noel Rock TD (FG), chairman of the committee asked the governmental body to appear at its November 5 meeting.

Social Democrats councillor for Lusk, Paul Mulville said he has also invited Irish Water to attend the next county council meeting.

“I am calling on Irish Water management to appear before our next Council meeting, on Monday November 11, 5pm, and tell us exactly what is going on with the water treatment plan in Leixlip, in open and on the public record, and answer questions from the public. 

“Irish Water have always declined to come to public meetings in Fingal County Council

“Now. they must do so, and they must be held accountable!

“This is now a matter of public health and wellbeing, and there can be no excuses,” he said.

Sinn Féin spokesman on water Eoin O’Broin TD said Irish Water had “some serious questions to answer”.

He said: “A report from the EPA back in March raised concerns about potential operational failures at the same plant and made eight recommendations on how to address these issues.

“So, what Irish Water need to state is, is the contamination of the water supply as a result of what the EPA identified as a concern in March?

“If so, why didn’t Irish Water and the operators of the plant prioritise addressing these concerns?”

Emma Kennedy, solicitor and water activist says that “a lot is still not clear with want went wrong with the water last week.

“Leixlip recently underwent a major overhaul. €30m in public funds were spent in giving the entire plant an upgrade – nothing should have went wrong at Leixlip.”

Kennedy says that the failure to address the issues that arose at the plant in March is worrying and there are “questions about trust, questions about accountability.”

In response to the complaints, Yvonne Harris, head of customer relations at Irish Water, said: “Irish Water acknowledge and understand the impact of this boil water notice on the 600,000 people affected and we sincerely regret the inconvenience.

“We endeavoured to keep the public up to date at every stage and we are grateful to the media, elected representatives and members of the public who shared the information on social media and who supported family, friends and neighbours.”

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