Wednesday 13 November 2019

Irish Water fears heavy rainfall will delay lifting of boil water notice affecting 600,000 people

Leixlip water treatment plant in Co Kildare where 'issues' were detected in the supply
Leixlip water treatment plant in Co Kildare where 'issues' were detected in the supply

Caroline O'Doherty

IRISH WATER is facing further challenges in getting the boil water notice affecting 600,000 people lifted as more heavy rain is forecast.

Downpours last Saturday led to the current problems at the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant, which serves large parts of Dublin, Kildare and Meath.

The problem was exacerbated by even heavier rain on Monday which was still making its way into the raw water supply yesterday.

Meanwhile Met Éireann issued a yellow rainfall warning which is to remain in effect in the region until this evening.

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Irish Water said it could not definitively say what impact the weather would have, but hopes were slim that today would bring the necessary third-successive clear test from the daily samples taken from the plant.

“We are looking at a range of solutions to ensure that increases in cloudiness in the water can be managed more effectively,” the company said.

“It is not possible to say conclusively at this time what impact any particular weather warning may have on the water produced, but we will be monitoring the situation closely.”

Minister Eoghan Murphy
Minister Eoghan Murphy

READ MORE: Caroline O'Doherty: 'Tensions in the pipeline as Irish Water aims to filter out legacy working arrangements to face future challenges'

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy visited the plant yesterday to see for himself the problems which also left the same 600,000 people having to boil their water for three days at the end of last month.

The problems lie with the old section of the plant where filter beds are inadequate to deal with raw water that has high levels of ‘turbidity’ or cloudiness caused by sediment and dirt which increases during prolonged heavy rain.

Particles left behind after filtering pose a risk of contamination by cryptosporidium and giardia and the water cannot be passed as safe for drinking without boiling.

READ MORE: 'How long is a piece of string?' - Irish Water unsure when boil notice will be lifted for 600,000 people

Filter replacement has been going on since last year but will not be complete until the middle of next year as the work has to take place while the plant is still operating.

The facility cannot be shut down to speed up the process as it provides 66pc of the water used by the 600,000 and its shutdown would swiftly lead to water shortages.

A new section of the plant is equipped with more effective filters and is handling the cloudy water but the two supplies are mixed as they leave the plant so the boil water notice has to apply to the entire supply.

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There was confusion for some householders in the region who consulted a newly updated map of the affected region yesterday and discovered they were now included when they had escaped the previous warning.

Irish Water said the map was being continually refined and the outer areas were extended “to err on the side of caution”.

A series of meetings took place yesterday between Irish Water management and Fingal County Council, which operates the plant on the utility’s behalf, as technicians tried to find ways of reducing the strain on the filters. No decision to lift the boil water notice can be taken without the backing of the HSE and the Environmental Protection Agency.

READ MORE: Caroline O'Doherty: 'Tensions in the pipeline as Irish Water aims to filter out legacy working arrangements to face future challenges'

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