Anger as residents told to wait 18 months for water
HUNDREDS of residents in the north side of Limerick city might not be able to drink their tap water for up to 18 months as Irish Water work to eliminate elevated lead levels.
Some 356 houses in Kileely were issued with notices yesterday warning them not to drink the water or use it for preparing food or diluted drinks, including baby formula feeds and ice cubes.
The alert came less than three weeks after 400 homes in nearby Ballynanty were put on similar notice after tests carried out at a number of homes showed lead levels above the statutory limit for lead in drinking water.
Irish Water said shared backyard services - a feature of Limerick housing built pre 1960's - can contribute to elevated levels of lead which it says is as a common feature in Ballynanty and Kileely.
Limerick City Council identified a programme of works to replace these connections and Part 1 of this programme successfully removed approximately 2,000 of these connections.
Programme 2, which is currently being planned by Irish Water, will remove the remainder of these connections but will cost €6m and take up to 12 months to complete.
Remedial works in Ballynanty are planned to commence in September 2014 but work in Kileely won't start until January 2015 and could take a year.
"The removal of lead piping, while the preferred option, requires a major programme of work and substantial funding over a realistic timeframe. The cost estimate for the design and construction of Works Programme 2 is €6m and it is expected that it will take approx. 12 months to complete," read the statement.
Ultimately it is the responsibility of the HSE to decide when the water restrictions can be lifted however residents in Kileely may be unable to drink their water for up to a year-and-a-half, given remedial works are not due to commence until January 2015.
In the notices distributed yesterday, the HSE emphasised that pregnant women and young children in particular should not drink water suspected of elevated lead concentrations.
Among the dangers posed by lead in water is how it can affect the development of a child's brain leading to problems with learning behaviour and attention.
The risk is greatest for young children and babies in the womb.
A temporary drinking tap has been installed outside St Munchin's Community Centre in Kileely where staff and volunteers were busy yesterday delivering water to elderly residents and locals who could not travel to the centre.
"Normally we have over 80 volunteers. Today we had about 20 extra people offering to help out once they heard about what was happening," explained Linda Ledger, the centre manager.
Ms Ledger who recently spent €537 on a 110 litre water container is also planning to use this tanker to delivery water to locals who cannot make it to the centre.
"I would hope to do it like an old fashioned milk run where people will leave out their empty containers and we will fill them," she explained.
Some 400 households in the Ballynanty area of Limerick city have been unable to drink their water or use it for cooking since July 31.
County Councillor Maurice Quinlivan (pictured above) said: "Irish Water needs to tell people what's going on. We also need to test the water in St Mary's Park and Thomondgate where there are also older pipe systems.
"We need a proper reconstruction service to take out the lead.
"We have contractors putting in water meters that nobody wants. We need to divert them to replace lead pipes."