18,000 Cork households face week without water


Water supplies to over 18,000 householders in Cork city are unlikely to be restored for at least a week following extensive damage to the city's main pumping station, Cork City Manager, Joe Gavin has warned.

The entire northside of Cork city and a section of the southside are currently without water supplies after the River Lee flooded the pumping station on the Lee Road early on Friday morning, resulting in the station being submerged under several metres of water.

The flooding forced Cork City Council engineers to shut off connections to the water supply network of the city to prevent contaminated flood water entering the system and a series of emergency supplies have been set up to supply the northside and parts of the southside.

Mr Gavin said he was reluctant to give a specific date for the restoration of supplies as City Council engineers are still waiting to assess the damage to the Lee Road pumping station but that the best case scenario at the moment was that supplies would be restored next weekend.

"It's very difficult to say when it will be restored because of the situation that has resulted from the flooding where the entire treatment plant has been submerged under several metres of water - something like that has never happened before," he said.

"We're dealing with an totally unprecedented situation. Our staff are working flat out at the moment trying to get the water removed from the plant and then trying to dismantle the pumps and then assemble them again and get them working.

"We don't want to say exactly when it will be up and running again but it will be certainly a number of days - we don't see it functioning again until the end of the week and the earliest would be next weekend - that's our best guestimate."

Mr Gavin said that virtually all the northside of the city is without water and several schools on the northside have already closed and he urged any school in the city without water to close until water supplies are restored.

Mr Gavin was supported in this by HSE South Director of Public Health, Dr Elizabeth Keane who said it would be unsafe for any school to continue to operate without a water supply for sanitation purposes.

Cork City Council Director of Service Environment, Gerry O'Beirne confirmed that city council is continuing to take water from the Inniscarra pumping station eight miles from the city and relay it through a reservoir at Chetwynd near Bishopstown.

This supply is enabling the City Council to maintain supplies to house in both the south east and the south west of the city but a central section of the southside is served by the Lee Rd pumping station and this area is without supply along with the northside, he said.

Mr O'Beirne said the Council had succeeded in utilising an old mains to pipe water from the Glashaboy reservoir near Glanmire to reconnect the city centre island and out as far as lower Blackpool but pressure problems has prevented the supply being restored to higher areas.

But Mr O'Beirne stressed that any houses in Cork city that are currently receiving water from their taps are receiving good quality water and while they may have minor problems with pressure and colour, it suitable for both drinking and sanitation purposes.

The council had put in place a series of ten emergency supply points for areas without water including five fixed standpipes as well as relay of tankers at Blackpool, Ballyvolane and Hollyhill Shopping Centres and St Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital in Gurranebraher.

Meanwhile, homeowners and businesses in the south, west and midlands are bracing themselves for more heavy rains this afternoon and this evening, after some of the worst flooding in living memory.

Met Eireann has forecast heavy and persistent rain for today which will spread nationwide and lead to more flooding. It expects the rains to ease this evening.

AA Roadwatch said a number of roads still remain impassable, particularly around Cork city and county.

In Cork the Western Road, Carrigrohane Straight and Lee Road in the city remain closed while Victoria Cross is impassable. In west Cork the Cork to Bantry Road remains blocked at Bandon.

The full cost of the floods, which left parts of Cork city under water for the first time in more than 50 years, is likely to be more than €100 million. This would top the record €98 million cost of flooding in August 2008.

Last night, the Defence Forces said it had increased relief efforts, with about 175 soldiers, 24 vehicles, four flat-bottomed boats and well over 10,000 sandbags deployed in Cork, Bantry, Clonakilty, Clonmel, Ennis, Ballinasloe and Carlow.

A further 300 soldiers, with vehicles and helicopters, were on stand-by.

Massive damage was caused all along the western approach to Cork city centre, after flood waters surged, following the release by the ESB of a large volume of water from Inniscarra Dam eight miles from the city.

The action resulted in a huge wash of water flowing down towards the city with the north channel of the river bursting through the quay wall at Grenville Place and flooding the ground floor of the Mercy University Hospital.

Fears of water pollution have resulted in boil notices being issued in parts of counties Cork and Galway.

The N17 Galway to Tuam Road is flooded at Two Mile Ditch and also closed at Claregalway. Dublin to Galway traffic can use the temporarily opened M6 which bypasses Ballinasloe and Craughwell, both of which are flooded.

In Ballinasloe, hundreds of people were evacuated with the help of the Defence Forces, Garda Síochána, Civil Defence and volunteers after the river Suck burst its banks. A boil water notice remains in place for Ballinasloe and reports today say the flood waters not receded significantly.

Among the worst affected areas were, Craughwell, Gort, Claregalway and Athenry in Co Galway, Abbeyknockmoy and Athleague on the Galway-Roscommon.

Council officials have also warned of the risk of costal flooding due to high tides this evening. Irish Farmers Association president Pádraig Walshe is due to visit Co Galway later today to inspect the flooding.

Elsewhere a number of roads in towns remain impassable. In Thomastown, County Kilkenny, the Quay and Marches Street are flooded. In Clonmel, County Tipperary, the Old Bridge, Gashouse Bridge and Raheen Road have reopened although Convent Bridge and Davis Road remain closed.

In Limerick the Shannon Bridge was closed until lunchtime after a 60ft Christmas tree became lodged against the bridge. The left turn from the Dock Rd to Ennis Road has also been closed.

The town of Ennis, Co Clare has also suffered severe flooding.

The Taoiseach said last night “the immediate priority for Government is to ensure that shelter is available for those people who have been displaced from their homes and to arrange for the provision of emergency supplies of safe drinking water where systems have been damaged.”

People were being put up in hotels and with neighbours and relatives although councils in Cork and Galway are now examining longer term a

As the clean-up costs mount, insurance providers questioned the continued viability of paying for repeat weather-related claims. Industry sources said insurance was for “unexpected” events but flooding in certain areas had become “predictable”.