Minister expects water shortages to end by Thursday

City engineers cautious about predicting end to problem

 Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan at a press conference after he visited the Ballymore Eustace water-treatment plant  in Co Kildare yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan at a press conference after he visited the Ballymore Eustace water-treatment plant in Co Kildare yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke


Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has said he expects the Dublin water crisis to be over by Thursday.

Speaking after a visit yesterday to the Ballymore Eustace water-treatment plant in Co Kildare, the source of the problem which has led to overnight water stoppages in the Dublin area for almost a week, Mr Hogan said he was confident the matter would be resolved within days .

“If progress continues between now and Thursday in the manner we have seen today we can be confident that Thursday will mean the lifting of restrictions.”

However, Dublin City Council last night said the stoppages would be in place nightly from 8pm to 7am until Thursday “at least” in an attempt to restore water production levels at the plant.

Mr Hogan said he understood that the city engineers were cautious about predicting an end to the difficulties , but he believed the solutions that had been put in place were beginning to bed down.

‘Working well’
“There was certainly a confidence among staff at the Ballymore Eustace plant today that these solutions are working well at the moment.”

In relation to calls from businesses, particularly in the restaurant sector, that they be compensated for losses in trade as a result of the nightly cuts, he said he understood their difficulties but this was a matter for the council.

Mr Hogan said water tankers were available to anyone who needed them, but the council had had very few requests for tankers and had few complaints in general in relation to the cuts.

“The staff and the expertise in trying to resolve the matter are doing a huge amount of work.

“I hope we are able to live with the restrictions that have been put there between now and Thursday, and that will be the end of the matter.”

Notice of the cuts
Mr Hogan had been critical of the council’s handling of the issue, particularly in relation to its failure to give notice of the cuts to business and residential consumers.

He yesterday described this failure as a “hiccup” which the council had remedied.

“The hiccups that arose in the early days certainly have been surmounted.

“The lessons that everybody has learned in this particular process in Dublin City Council is that they must inform people in advance so that people can make contingency measures.”

He said the advent of Irish Water from January would mark an end to the historic “under-investment” and disjointed approach by local authorities in relation to water infrastructure.

“Over a period of time they will be in a position to double the capital investment programme.

“I don’t expect they will be able to do it in 2015, but I do expect they will be close to it in 2016.”

What is it that’s so unusual about Dublin’s water?
Dublin City Council has been at pains to stress this week that there is no problem with the quality of the water processed by the Ballymore Eustace treatment plant. In fact city engineer Michael Phillips has said the raw water coming into the plant is “cleaner” than what it usually processes.

That is in essence the problem. The plant is designed to deal with the type of water that has been collecting in the Poulaphouca reservoir for at least 20 years.

Different nature
The current problem has been caused by water of a different nature arriving in the reservoir.

This water has smaller particles of sediment in it and these are not being fully caught by the filters used in the first stage of treatment. They then pass to the next stage of treatment and the water has to be filtered again.

The solution the council began using to ensure the particles are removed is to change the filters more frequently than it usually would have to. This slows down the treatment process, which means not as much water can be treated in a 24-hour period as is required by the consumers of Dublin and surrounding counties.

Right size
The council has also been trying a number of methods to change the character of the water to make the particles the right size for the filter. New polyelectrolytes – chemicals that help gather impurities into larger particles – were introduced last Thursday night and were proving effective, Mr Phillips said.

Production at the plant is now improving, but levels are still 20 per cent below that required to meet daily demand for the Dublin region and the council said it needs to keep the restrictions in place until at least Thursday to try to get production back to normal.