Water crisis a 'disaster' for Dublin businesses
Published 31/10/2013 | 11:00
Environment minister Phil Hogan has said Dublin City Council engineers still “don’t know” how to fix the current water crisis in the greater Dublin area.
The minister said it is “an unforeseen technical issue” that Dublin City Council has never encountered before, but did admit the news of water restrictions could have been communicated better to those affected.
Minister Hogan said they have “international expertise” working twenty-four hours a day with Dublin City Council engineers to try and solve the issue but he could not say for certain the water supply will return to normal by Monday.
“This is an unforeseen technical issue,” he told RTÉ Radio News at One this afternoon.
“Engineers hope to have the problem resolved by Monday. I’m sure if they could find a solution they’d know how to fix it.
“It’s something that Dublin City Council has never encountered before. There is everything possible being done at the moment to fix it.”
Speaking about the current water restrictions which were put in place yesterday, Mr Hogan said the government were assured the amount of water available to homes and businesses in the greater Dublin area is “sufficient to allow people and businesses to go about their daily lives as normal”.
“Communication is key,” the minister said, “and, yes, it could have been handled better than handing out a press release for people to hear over the airwaves.
“If businesses need anything, the Government are assisting Dublin City Council and the emergency services are available if requested.”
Mr Hogan said it is not the Government’s problem if businesses are losing money during the water restriction period.
“Let’s try and solve the problem first,” he replied, when questioned if businesses would be compensated after the crisis.
“If businesses are losing money, that is a matter between the businesses and the Dublin City Council,” he said.
“At the moment, the engineers are doing everything they can around the clock and we are monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.”
Meanwhile, homes and businesses have been left with dirty water in the wake of a treatment crisis in supplies for Greater Dublin.
Despite assurances yesterday that quality was not an issue, the City Council has warned people who are getting brown, orange or yellow discolouration in supplies.
Engineers said some water was affected because of the disruptions in supply following problems at one of the state's biggest treatment plants, Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare.
It warned anyone seeing a brown, orange or yellow tinge that it should not be used for drinking or cooking.
In its latest update on the crisis Dublin City Council urged householders experiencing the problem to run taps clear for two to three minutes.
"If the problem persists contact us for further advice. Typically the problem resolves within an hour or two of the water supply returning," the council said.
It also warned that it could take two to three hours from when valves on the pipes were opened this morning at 7am for full supplies to filter to every home and business in Greater Dublin.
"This is down to the location of the property relative to the valve. Residents living closest to the valve will get water first," the council said.
The authority said that anyone seeing white or cloudy water out of their taps should not worry - the water is safe to drink.
It said the discolouration is usually air in the water caused by disruptions to the network.
Meanwhile Coffee bars without coffee and taps with chalky water are just some of the obstacles restaurants in Dublin are facing during the water shortage crisis.
Popular restaurant Camden Kitchen on Grantham Street in the city centre could not even clean the building after closing last night, due to a lack of water, and instead had to come in early this morning to sanitise.
Owner Paraic Hayden spoke of the drama behind the scenes for restaurants in the city centre as they face the water crisis, which resulted in blue, chalky tap water.
"The water was due off for 8pm, but at 7pm one of the porters said there was something wrong with the water.
"When we examined it, a baked, grey, chalky substance came out."
Mr Hayden generously provided customers with complimentary bottles of water, but restaurants throughout the capital could not provide tea and coffee at all.
"At the moment, we can’t make coffee, or tea, full stop. It's a disaster," he added.
"We're in here this morning cleaning up because after a certain time last night, we can't clean.
"This is an ongoing problems over the last four years.
Sometimes they [Dublin City Council] say it will go off, then doesn't. It's a little bit of a lottery in that sense.
"This time though they seem confident, it will last."
Meanwhile, coffee shop Olive Green Espresso on Baggot Street is not able to provide its customers with their trademark hot drinks.
Manager Roberta Silva explained: " We're not making any coffee or tea, it's just sandwiches right now.
"We are open, but not making coffee."
Meetings are ongoing involving Dublin City Council engineers and lab experts in their bid to resolve the crisis at Ballymore Eustace.
The experts are holding talks today on possible short term responses to the crisis but the council has already warned that restrictions will kick in at 8pm tonight regardless of any progress on the issue.
Michael Phillips, Dublin City Council engineer, is talking to various chemists and water treatment experts from overseas who have experience of similar treatment crises.
"What we need to do is find the people who have dealt with this exact, or more or less similar, situation before," a spokesman said.
Council lab technicians and engineers are at the Ballymore Eustace plant again today running through computer and physical treatment systems in a bid to identify the problem.
Hundreds of thousands of homes and business in Dublin city and county and parts of Kildare and Wicklow are 30 million litres below what is needed to keep taps and toilets flowing after the 10-day old problem.
Production at Ballymore Eustace has been cut by about a fifth.
The supplies are a different colour and turbidity or cloudiness than the system is used to handling.
It is suspected the fine, dry summer followed by periods of heavy rain over the last few weeks has created an unusual balance in the raw water.
Pollution is not an issue and the quality of water making it to taps is not a concern.
Experts have said the issue centres on sediment or treated material that needs to be removed from drinking water floating, or being suspended in treatment tanks, rather than sinking.
Denise Calnan, Caitlin McBride and Ed Carty