Parts of Roscommon enduring ‘boil’ warnings for over a year
Households and businesses buying ice cubes sourced from west Yorkshire
Joe Beirne with bags of ice at his Battlebridge Campsite, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brian Farrell.
Households and businesses in parts of Co Roscommon have been forced to buy in drinking water for more than a year – including ice cubes sourced from west Yorkshire and elsewhere in the UK.
Towns and villages covered by a “boil water” notice, which advises consumers not to wash vegetables or brush their teeth using tap water, include Boyle, Killaraght, Rockingham, Cootehall, Tarmon Road, Kiltycreighton, Crossna, Derrycashel, Moigh, Carrigeenroe, Battlebridge and Ardcarne in Co Roscommon.
Periodic boil water notices are regularly in place in Castlerea and Ballaghaderreen. In south Roscommon a boil water notice relating to the Killeglin water treatment plant has been in place for 10 months.
In Battlebridge Eilish and Joe Beirne run a pub and restaurant, caravan and camping grounds, motor home park and marina on the banks of the Shannon river, as well as “glamping” accommodation in adapted tents, pods and tree houses.
But though the Shannon pours millions of litres of water a day past their gardens, they have not been able to give a customer a glass of tap water for more than a year.
“Guests have to buy their own drinking water; most people have been very understanding about it,” says Eilish.
In the bar the ice machine cannot be used and ice cubes are bought in from Tesco in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Tesco confirms its ice is sourced by the award-winning the Ice Company in west Yorkshire.
The irony of buying in frozen water from the UK for use on the banks of the Shannon is not lost on Eilish. “We just haven’t had time make a fuss of it. We . . . just got on with it. Perhaps in September when things quieten down we will be able to do something.”
Cryptosporidium Public drinking water quality in the Republic is generally good, with declining levels of E.coli contamination, according to the latest Environmental Protection Agency report
which covers 2012.
However, the agency has listed 141 water supplies on its remedial action list, meaning the water production plants require a range of actions from increased testing to abandonment of the plant.
One of the most frequent causes of concern, according to the remedial action list, is the lack of a “barrier” to cryptosporidium contamination.
Cork city and counties Limerick, Laois, Leitrim and Longford list one each. Louth, Cavan and Monaghan have two each, south Tipperary has three, Donegal and Meath each has five. Counties Cork, Sligo and Waterford list seven each and Galway and Wexford have eight.
Kerry has the highest number of drinking water plants on the list, at 26. About 10 of the 141 plants on the remedial action list are in Co Roscommon.
In the Moorings Bar and Restaurant on the shores of Lough Key, proprietor Patrick Heslin says they cater for about 90 people in the restaurant on a typical Wednesday night, rising to more than 100 at the weekend.
The water for food preparation, ice cubes and drinking is bought in from SuperValu or Centra in Boyle at a cost of about €85 weekly. Water rates come to about €300 monthly, and no discount is available when it is unsafe to drink. “We just get on with it,” said Heslin.
Irish Water says there were almost 19,000 people on boil water notices when it took over the network in January 2014. More than 98 per cent of those were in Roscommon, it says.
The utility acknowledges that an EPA directive that the Boyle supply be brought up to standard by the end of this month would not be met.