Hunker down, Sligo householders urge those facing water restrictions on the east

People in the west are well used to having their water supply restricted

Householders on the east coast who have been coping with a boil water notice for a number of days have been urged to “hunker down and get ready for the long haul” by a community leader in Co Sligo where water restrictions have been in place since January.

A boil water notice was issued for the Lough Talt water supply on January 11th last – but this followed similar restrictions from February to October 2018. The alert followed the detection of Cryptosporidium in the water.

According to campaigner Kellie Cadman the restrictions, which affect an estimated 12,500 customers, have been imposed sporadically since 2009.

Sligo County Council gave planning permission for a new treatment plant last May and according to Irish Water, work will be completed by the end of 2020.


Roger McCarrick, president of Tubbercurry Chamber of Commerce, said the issue was causing hardship for young families and for vulnerable elderly people as well as for several local business such as pubs and restaurants.

And despite the cost to people, they were facing a 15 per cent rise in property tax in Co Sligo, he added.

“It did make us laugh when we heard people in Dublin complaining after a few days” he said. “ We were told a long time ago that it would be sorted out in weeks so the people on the east coast had better hunker down and get ready for the long haul”.

Mr McCarrick said people had to boil water for all cooking and even for washing teeth and it was a worry for those with young children and for people who were in poor health. “People are boiling kettles dozens of times a day and buying containers of water,” he said.

While there was relief that work had started on a new treatment plant “we do feel abandoned,” he added.

‘National crisis’

Local TD Ballymote-based Eamon Scanlon said it had been estimated that the treatment plant would cost €10 million. "It is no Mickey Mouse job but it is annoying that when the water goes off for three days on the east coast , it is regarded as a national crisis but it's been an issue here for years and not a word about it", said the Fianna Fáil TD.

The boil water notice applies to the towns of Tubbercurry and Ballymote, and a large rural hinterland including Aclare, Bellaghy, Curry, Lavagh, Ballanacarrow, and Coolaney.

Ms Cadman said she believed the total number of people affected was in the region of 40,000 when homes and businesses were taken into consideration.

And she added that given the need to keep buying water “a mountain of plastic is building up” at a time when people are aware of the danger of that to the environment .

A spokeswoman for Irish Water said work would be completed on the Lough Talt treatment plant in 2020. She said site preparation works such as fencing, excavation and clearance had commenced and the main work would start towards the end of this year.

Irish Water said Cryptosporidium monitoring was no longer taking place on Lough Talt, pending the completion of this work.This decision had been made with the agreement of the HSE.

It said too that the Lough Talt boil water notice is not the longest running in the country but did not say where restrictions have been in place for a longer period.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland