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'Do not drink' warning forces thousands out of isolation to fetch water


(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

The country's largest group water scheme has been under a 'do not drink' alert for six weeks, forcing residents to abandon isolation attempts to buy bottled water and fill containers from tankers.

More than 6,000 people rely on the Kilmaley-Inagh scheme in Co Clare where high levels of cloudiness and aluminium led to the contamination alert.

Testing is taking place in the hope they can resume drinking the water in the next few days but after six weeks of not being able to use it, even for cooking, frustrations in the region are running high.

Green Party councillor Roisin Garvey said she had been delivering water to older residents who couldn't get out to fetch water or were unable to carry it back to their homes.

"It's heartbreaking to see how grateful some of them have been for a few litres of water," she said.

"It also makes a nonsense of all the 'wash your hands' and 'don't congregate' warnings when 6,000 people are supposed to be turning the taps on a few tankers to get water."

Problems began in early February when turbidity levels, caused by sediment and organic matter in the water, rose to the extent that the treatment plant could not filter it with confidence that it could remove all substances, leaving a risk of microbes getting into the supply.

Cleaning was boosted with extra aluminium which also became a health concern.

On February 13, the HSE issued a 'do not drink' notice.

Since then, scheme operator EPS Water has been working to improve the filter systems but early assurances that it would take a few days quickly fell by the wayside.

Barry O'Toole, EPS operations director, wrote to scheme manager Noel Carmody on March 10 to say he aimed to have it fixed by March 13.

"I would like to stress that EPS are fully committed to finding a solution to this current issue," he said.

A spokesperson for EPS was not put forward yesterday.

Mr Carmody said samples taken in recent days were clear but with 250km of pipes in the scheme and an average of 1.5m litres of water being supplied daily, it was necessary to ensure that every part of the network was fully flushed out.

He said while he was anxious to get the current issue resolved, he had concerns about the source of their water supply, Lough Naminna, which has suffered an unexpected drop in quality recently.

He said the impact of tree felling and land clearing for a wind farm would have to be investigated.

"It's a ground-water lake on top of a mountain with very little water flowing into it so it should be well filtered before it ever gets to the water treatment plant," Mr Carmody said.

"Turbidity increases a bit every winter, particularly with heavy rainfall, but we haven't seen anything like this before."

Irish Independent

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