From the Archives February 16th, 1861


A plan to expand Dublin’s water supply got a cool reception from ‘respectable citizens’

Dublin Corporation’s plan to create a new reservoir by damming the River Vartry near Roundwood, Co Wicklow was opposed at a meeting of “merchants and respectable citizens” whose opinions included these.

Dr Evory Kennedy [said] he had resided in the city for thirty-five years, and the want of water was to him a new fact, until alleged on this occasion. He freely admitted the fact of want of distribution. The poor were neglected . . . and there was an immense demand for water to their houses. But they had two great channels of water pouring into the city at every moment of the day and night [the canals], and no charge of unhealthiness had ever been brought against it, or proof given that it was instrumental in producing disease.

This was the most healthy city in the world, and yet they had no evidence of want of water in the city. The analysis of their able chemist, Dr Apjohn, had put beyond a doubt that Vartry was a charming drinking water; but how did he disprove that the water they were using was healthy – had he stated that it could not be improved? The water of Dublin contained that spongeli which had frightened the world, and a considerable quantity of saline matter; but the spongeli might be got rid of by the simple process of filtering; they could rout them out of the water and prevent their formation.

He had lived near the Vartry, and though it was said to be good drinking water, he doubted very much whether any gentleman present would lead out his horse to drink it; he doubted very much whether it was healthy water for the citizens of Dublin.

It contained a free acid, and he cautioned the citizens to beware of dyspepsia. This free acid, coming in contact with leaden pipes and leaden cisterns, would generate a slow poison, of the effects of which he cautioned the citizens. They should look well that they were not getting a slow poison into their city. (Hear, hear.)

Master Fitzgibbon denied all the allegations made in reference to the impurity of canal water, and he challenged proof of them. Did the meeting believe that the poor of Dublin were in want of water? No.

Reverting to the merits of the Vartry scheme, he begged to state that having already shown that the rain basin was situated in the midst of a mineral district, having on three sides of it, mines in full working order. . .

Calmly reviewing all the facts of the case, he would suggest a vigorous opposition to the bill, which would pass into law if the petition against it were not lodged in Parliament before six o’clock on Wednesday.

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* Compiled by JOE JOYCE