Irish Water will review whether to reopen Rosehall water treatment plant, one of two plants that until 18 months ago supplied water to Drogheda, to alleviate the water crisis in Louth and Meath.
At a private meeting in Drogheda on Tuesday evening, Irish Water engineer John Keane told local public representatives that the company would examine whether to reopen the shuttered plant.
Local representative Kevin Callan, an independent councillor, has called for the plant to be reopened and has said — citing former staff and experts who tested the water at Rosehall — that it could provide water in two or three days to help as many as 200,000 people he said are affected by the crisis.
Irish Water has said that there are about 50,000 people — 30,000 people in the Drogheda area and 20,000 in east Meath — affected by the burst water main at Roughgrange that takes water from the River Boyne to the Staleen Water Treatment Plant, Drogheda’s only water supply plant.
The Louth and Meath water crisis is in its fifth day. Irish Water has been working to repair the burst pipe and restore water supply to the affected households and businesses.
Irish Water regional manager Conor Foley told the representatives at the meeting in Drogheda that the company did not have the manpower to reopen the Rosehall plant, one of the smaller number of water treatment plants that the company is closing around the country.
Mr Callan questioned why Irish Water was not applying more resources to address a “regional emergency.”
Mr Keane, when pressed by Mr Callan, later said that the company would consider reopening Rosehall as a contingency plan should the burst pipe not be repaired as planned by the weekend.
“This is hugely significant,” Mr Callan said after the meeting. “Instead of just one plan: to fix the pipe. We will have two plans. They will continue to work on the pipe and we will effectively have a plan B: that if the pipe is not repaired fully, we will have a second back-up supply.”
Speaking to The Irish Times after the meeting, Mr Foley said that Rosehall would provide only a fraction of the 30 million litres of water that the Staleen plant processes every day and that the company had to consider the cost and time involved in reopening Rosehall and the quality of its water.
He stressed that reinstating Rosehall was “not a practical solution” but that the company would carry out a review of that tomorrow.
“I don’t think it would have been a very pragmatic approach to take our limited resources and put it into a kind of sideline project that may not be viable in even the short term,” he said.
Residents in Louth and Meath continued to receive emergency water supplies with volunteer organisations distributing bottled water and supplies from tanks to residents in the countries.
The emergency response to the crisis was stepped up again on Tuesday. The Defence Forces were drafted in to distribute water in the environs of Drogheda as Irish Water, Meath and Louth county councils raised the number of emergency water stations to almost 100.
Households and businesses located in and around Drogheda but also stretching from Clogher Head to south Meath have suffered disruption in water supplies since the mains burst on Thursday evening.
Water tankers to support the distribution , have been sourced from Northern Ireland and Cos Wicklow, Fingal, Dublin, Westmeath, Waterford in one of the largest mobilisations of emergency water services seen in the Republic.
In an update on the crisis on Tuesday afternoon Irish Water and the councils said Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda continued to be prioritised while supply was also being maintained to the commercial centre in Drogheda – including the Mell area, Donore Road, Marley’s Lane, Cement Road, Ballsgrove, Marian Park, Crosslanes, and some adjoining estates in the vicinity of these locations.
A restricted supply is in place in east Meath in Laytown, Bettystown, Mornington, Donacarney, Julianstown, Clope, Grange Rath and Gormanstown.
Some 43 road tankers have now been deployed to supplement the mains water supply, to replenish temporary water stations and to supply priority customers around impacted communities.
In addition 98 stationary water containers are in place across Louth and Meath and 8,000, five and ten litre foldable water containers are available form the councils for all impacted communities in Meath and Louth.
The local authorities have seven standpipes connected to water mains, six of which are in Drogheda and one which is in Meath.
The update said all hospitals, nursing homes and other residential centres for vulnerable users have contingency water supply arrangements in place and will receive a water supply throughout the day. Bottled water is also being delivered to vulnerable customers.