Wednesday 22 November 2017

Carlow distillery says it shouldn't have to pay €500k Irish Water bill

Rosemary and Bernard Walsh, founders of Walsh Whiskey Distillery
Rosemary and Bernard Walsh, founders of Walsh Whiskey Distillery Newsdesk Newsdesk

A distillery in Carlow handed a €500,000 bill by Irish Water has said the utility is attempting to shift the costs of upgrading the area’s water treatment plant on to them.

Walsh Whiskey Distillery in Royal Oak said it received the bill for half a million euro despite a prior agreement with Carlow County Council granting a licence to connected to the Bagenalstown water treatment plant.

Speaking this morning to KLCR 96FM, the company’s Chief executive Bernard Walsh said the bill had “come left of field” following the council’s decision in 2013.

“We knew in 2013 that there was no point in looking at Carlow and Bagenalstown if the plant couldn’t facilitate us,” he said.

“We had other options… [but] we applied, as anybody would apply, in Carlow and we got our licence. So that, effectively, meant we could proceed with the site in Royal Oak.”

Mr Walsh told the local station that it was “only fair that we, and all users of the treatment plant, pay for the waste treatment”, adding that, as an existing licence user  in the greater Bagenalstown area, he was happy to paid for the use of the plant.

However, following the transfer of power from the Carlow County Council to Irish Water, Mr Walsh said that utility had contacted the company to say that the Bagenalstown plant would not be able to handle the extra wastewater generated by the distillery without an upgrade.

The unexpected €500,000 charge is in addition to what the whiskey company will be paying as an annual fee for the treatment of their bi-product water.

Mr Walsh said it was unfair to expect his company to pay for this new infrastructure, saying that if Irish Water wanted to "penalise" customers then it should "allocate it clearly across all customers across the region.”

Local Renua candidate for the by-election in Carlow-Kilkenny on May 22, Patrick McKee said the area “badly” needed the 55 jobs promised by the distillery, adding that Irish Water was “countermanding a decision by Carlow County Council to grant a water treatment licence to Walsh Whiskey.”

A spokesperson for Irish Water however told that since January 2014, the semi-state body was obliged to recover the costs of any new water infrastructure which was solely required to service a particular business.

Addressing Mr Walsh’s request that any upgrade of the Bagenalstown water treatment plant be spread across all customers in the region, Irish Water said it “was not permitted to pass costs on, associated with infrastructure to service the needs of a specific developer, to other domestic and business Irish Water customers.’’

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