Wednesday 25 April 2018

Irish Water lifts ban imposed on more than 1,000 households in Meath

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Independent.ie Newsdesk, Amy Molloy, Luke Byrne and Kevin Doyle

Irish Water have lifted the 'Do not use/Do not wash' notice for parts of Meath affected by high levels of chlorine in their water.

The lifting of the advice comes less than 30 hours after it was put in place as reports came in of children suffering rashes.

The townlands that had been under the 'no drink and no wash' warning included: Kilcloon, Moygaddy, Killeany, Kilgraigue, Harristown, Brownstown, Ballynare, Butlerstown, Staffordstown, Brownrath, Blackhall Little, Waynestown, Harlockstown, Ballymacoll.

In the statement this evening, Irish Water explained how they became aware of the problem.

"Irish Water was notified late on Monday night via email that customers were experiencing water quality issues. Irish Water then telephoned those customers on Tuesday and they reported a smell of chlorine from their water but they did not point to any other ill effects. Irish Water then started a process to get the water in the affected areas sampled. By the time we had the results of the sampling on Wednesday morning, which showed unacceptably elevated chlorine levels, Irish Water had received calls from a small number of customers who said they were feeling unwell. By this point Irish Water had consulted with the HSE and on their advice we put a notice on advising customers not to use the water for drinking, food preparation or washing. By 2pm on Wednesday Irish Water had bottled water on site at Kilcloon School and Church for public distribution and this location was replenished and supplemented by bulk water containers."

Independent.ie spoke to a mother who forked out nearly €200 for doctors appointments over the last week who feared her children were sick because of the water in their area.

Dipti Pandya lives in Kilcloon, Co Meath where the water ban was in place.

Ms Pandya said her water "smells like bleach" and all members of her family have been suffering gastrointestinal issues lately.

The mother-of-four also said one of her son's has a rash on his face.

"We are washing with bottled water now, you never think water could be affected like this," Ms Pandya told Independent.ie.

"Everyone is very upset about it. My children had to miss school because they were sick. I didn't know what it was, I just thought it was a bug, but now I fear it may be the water.

"The water has been smelling really strongly of chlorine for the last 10 days."

Irish Water also revealed what their investigation into the issue discovered.

"Our investigations have indicated that an operational failure on a chlorine booster caused a very gradual over-chlorination of the water. This over-chlorination built gradually to the point where customers could smell the excess and told us that they were feeling unwell.

"Irish Water would like to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused by this incident and thank customers for their patience in complying with this notice. Any customers with any health concerns should please contact their GP. We are grateful to those customers who contacted us and would like to remind all customers that if they ever have queries about their water quality our call centre can be contacted on 1850 278 278 is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Jana Lunden (42), from Staffordstown, near Dunboyne, was also among one of the many affected households.

She fears that elevated chlorine levels in the tap water supply could affect her unborn baby.

Ms Lunden, who is 20-weeks pregnant with her second child, said she had noticed over the weekend that her tap water had a strong smell. 

"When I had a bath, it was the same feeling you get in a highly chlorinated swimming pool. My eyes were sore and my nose was running," she said. 

She was shocked when the utility revealed the water had elevated levels of chlorine, making it unsafe.

"I’m 20-weeks pregnant and I’m taking a bath every night,” she explained. “I’m going to book an emergency scan. I spoke to my doctor who explained there can be a risk with birth defects," she said.

Aneta Chacala (40), from Harlockstown said she was worried about the effect of the chlorine on her children Sienna (1), Luciana (3) and Juliana (5).  

"We live a very healthy lifestyle and we try to keep chemicals out,” she said. “We spend so much to live healthy and then this happens with the water,” she said.

"There should be a system in place that automatically warns when there is a problem like this. It has happened before, where there has been a strong smell from the water," she added. 

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