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Leaks prove hard to find as water crisis drags on

DUBLIN City Council has nine engineering crews ready to restore water supplies to the capital but some cannot work because ruptured pipes cannot be found.

Yesterday it emerged that the water crisis will continue into at least next week, forcing tens of thousands of households to cope with low pressure or no supply.

Parts of Mullingar in Co Westmeath is almost three weeks without water, while Finglas in Dublin is now in its sixth day of no supply. Fingal County Council, which has been particularly badly hit with large parts of the area without fresh water, said it had received 11,000 calls this week from concerned residents.

Up to 20,000 people could be affected in Dublin, and reservoirs across the country will take at least six weeks -- and up to four months in Dublin -- to return to "normal" levels.


Last night Dublin City Engineer Michael Phillips told the Irish Independent he could not give a date when normal supplies would return.

"Last Saturday and Sunday we repaired 25 broken mains. On a normal winter day we might repair three, so it's a four-fold increase," he said.

"Since the weekend we have found it difficult to find the broken mains because of low pressure. It's a chicken and egg situation. It you pump more water in to find the leaks, you lose the water. If you don't pump, you don't find the leak.

"I cannot give a definite date (when supplies will return to normal).

"We have nine crews out. At the moment the problem is we're not finding enough leaks to utilise them. We have every available resource out looking for leaks. We're using the most modern technology but it is proving very difficult.

"What will help is the thaw. More will come as the ground is thawing out. Eighty per cent of the leaks do not appear on the surface. They find their way into storm drains, telephone ducts or land drains. That makes it more difficult to find."

It emerged last night that Dublin City Council faces the possibility of legal action from businesses who have been unable to operate. Executive manager Brian Smyth said they had received calls from a number of bars and restaurants who said they intended to sue.

Mr Smyth said they were unable to give large industry the volumes of water they needed to operate fully due to the shortfall. Bean producer Bachelors said it would put 40 staff on protective notice next week unless supply was restored.

A 60pc reduction in water pressure on the south side of Dublin last night impacted on the fire brigade, which had to be prepared to send an additional unit to fire call-outs. Normally, three fire units would be dispatched to a house fire. But because of reduced pressure the brigade would have had to send out four units last night, a source said.

Irish Independent