Tuesday 12 December 2017

A day in the life: 'It's just filthy with sewage and God knows what else. It's no way to live'

Patrick and Margaret Mason in the kitchen of their home in Springfield, Clonlara, Co Clare. Phoot: Brian Gavin
Patrick and Margaret Mason in the kitchen of their home in Springfield, Clonlara, Co Clare. Phoot: Brian Gavin

Wayne O’Connor

Yesterday marked the fifth week that the Mason family have been living in a flood in Springfield, Co Clare.

Some homes in the area have been abandoned while the house where Patrick Mason was reared ihas been destroyed by water and raw sewage attacking the area.

However, the home that Mr Mason shares with his wife Margaret and son Brian (23) is still above water but saving their home has come at a huge personal cost and effort.

4.30am: Patrick was already up twice during the night to check the flood levels outside and to top up the fuel in the pumps keeping the water at bay. Now he is getting ready to go to work, but first he has to get dressed so he can go outside and use the portaloo.

Their water supply has been contaminated with raw sewage from septic tanks and nearby slurry pits since the start of December.

"It is dreadful that in this day and age I have to go outside to use a bathroom," he said. His car is parked on higher ground nearly half a mile from his house. He has to wear a lifejacket, waders and a headlamp to make his way through the blackness of night and the icy water that comes well above his waist just so he can drive to work.

6am: Brian gets up and traces his father's steps so he can make his journey to work.

His mother Margaret said she worries terribly about both her husband and son making the trip through the water. I would be worried sick about them. There are dykes a couple of feet deep and you don't know what condition the road is going to be in," she said. "They can't see where they are going so if they trip or fall - it isn't worth thinking about it."

8am: Margaret gets up to prepare for the Army's first visit of the day. They come every morning with fresh water for the family. They need at least 30 litres to wash, cook, clean and prepare meals.

"We have nowhere to put waste water so when I am finished I have to get the basin of water and throw it out the back door to where our garden used to be," she said. "All our rubbish is just floating around outside the house. It is filthy with sewage and God knows what else floating around. It's no way to live a life."

10am: The army make sure the family always have enough supplies and they pick up Margaret with a flat bottomed boat so she can make a trip to the supermarket and run errands.

"We have no washing machine now so they bring me to the launderette to wash clothes," she said. I had to go and get new towels because all of our old ones were used to block the drains and stop sewage getting in."

She brings the shopping back on the boat but said it is a struggle. "I was coming in the other day sitting under a little umbrella. It started to rain and I just felt like crying," she said. "I had to throw away the sliced pan and I was so mad. It isn't the cost of it but the effort you go through to get it. You cannot get away from the water."

3pm: Patrick usually gets home from work just before 3pm. He likes to have a shower after his shift but he cannot have one because they have no running water.

"All I can do to wash myself is use a kettle of hot water and a kettle of cold water in the sink with a cloth," he said.

"I would love to have a shower but I can't even wash my hair. If I go up to the neighbour's house for one I still have to put on my waders. I hate those shagging things."

5pm: Margaret gets the dinner ready for the family but cannot wash or prepare food using tap water.

"Even something as simple as doing the wash up is difficult," she said. "Because you know that your supply is limited you are constantly sparing what you use."

After dinner, the rest of Patrick's evening is spent looking after the pumps or making sure that those helping his family are happy.

"There is always someone here, whether it be the Army, the media, a neighbour or a politician. It is great that people are so helpful but you don't get a minute to yourself," he said.

"I bought a newspaper four days ago to read about the rugby at the weekend and still have not gone near it."

10pm: Patrick heads for bed with more water surrounding his house than when he woke up this morning. He will wake twice throughout the night to check his house is still above water.

"It is impossible to sleep with the pumps going all night," he said. "You would be restless anyway because you are wondering what is going on. I'll be glad when we finally get our lives back."

Irish Independent

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