Listowel queues up as water runs dry

Deep fears over water supply as visitors flock in for the races

Mike Buckley, John McAuliffe, Cllr Jimmy Moloney and John McGrath at the water depot in the Square
Mike Buckley, John McAuliffe, Cllr Jimmy Moloney and John McGrath at the water depot in the Square
June Hilliard Moloney tops up on water
Gerry Behan keeping the show going in the Horseshoe Bar

Dónal Nolan

North Kerry is cautiously accepting assurances its re-established water supply will flow for the week of the Listowel Races when an influx of thousands of punters is set to place even more pressure on the system.

Taps ran dry in Listowel, Moyvane, Knockanure, Lisselton, Finuge, Lixnaw on Saturday evening as two pumps at the waterworks in Scartlea to the west of Listowel failed, impacting roughly 4,000 people at its peak.

Irish Water and Kerry County Council had restored the supply by Tuesday, but the sudden loss of water over the weekend has left businesses and homeowners deeply concerned ahead of what will be the single most important week of the year for the economy of the area.

"It has deeply undermined confidence but we're accepting their assurances for now that there won't be a problem for the rest of the week," head of the Listowel Vintners' Gerry Behan of the Horseshoe Bar told The Kerryman.

"It's back now (Tuesday) with better pressure than before, but it won't be much good having good pressure this week if there's none at all next week. Had it happened a week later it would have been an utter disaster for Listowel and North Kerry," he said.

"Businesses would have closed this weekend but for local councillors Aoife Thornton (FG), Jimmy Moloney (FF) and Mike Kennelly (FG) keeping us informed of all the developments on an ongoing basis, the Listowel fire brigade for topping up water for businesses regularly and the Civil Defence. They were all brilliant."

Race director Pat Healy said the company would be keeping a careful eye on the situation. "Look, we accept the assurances we're getting but obviously it's a concern for a race track. Horses need lots of water the whole time and it would be a serious worry if we thought we couldn't provide it. If anything further should happen this week we will be putting a plan in place that would see sufficient water tankers coming onto the Islands."

Kerry County Council and Irish Water engineers are still investigating exactly what caused the simultaneous failure of two pumps at the Scartlea station this week. It's thought debris may have been sucked into the system causing the failure of the main pump with a second, back-up pump failing to kick in just as it was needed.

Dromin Water Treatment Plant to the north of the town ran dry in the absence of the feed from Scartlea, situated on the River Feale to the west of Listowel.

A 'Drinking Water Incident Response Plan' was put into operation on Sunday by Irish Water and the Council as supply was deemed 'critically low'. Under the plan vital facilities like Listowel Community Hospital and nursing homes were kept supplied as the rest of the region's consumers ran dry.

Water tankers and stations were in place by 2.30pm on Sunday at six locations in the region, with homeowners queuing at the main hub in Listowel's Square for bottles supplied by Irish Water from a cache it had sourced to deal with a similar emergency in Co Louth earlier in the summer.

Irish Water informed The Kerryman on Tuesday that it is continuing to carry out work at the Scartlea site to 'enhance the security' of the local water supply - as Race Week draws near.

Temporary repairs were completed to one of the pumps on Sunday night, which came on stream after midnight. 'Substantive repairs are required to the second pump and are ongoing under the direction of Irish Water', Kerry County Council said on Tuesday meanwhile.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Jimmy Moloney called on Irish Water to prioritise its plan to replace the ageing infrastructure in the Scartlea pumphouse. "I'm informed there will be two pumps working by the end of the week with a back-up system in place. We're just fortunate it happened when it did and not during the Races. I'm calling on Irish Water to prioritise its plan to upgrade Scartlea now." Irish Water says it is looking at this project with renewed urgency.


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