Co Kerry mains rupture leaves 50,000 people without water

High temperatures and ageing pipe infrastructure may have contributed to problem

The expectation is that service will be restored throughout the afternoon. People will feel full pressure returning. File photograph: Getty

The expectation is that service will be restored throughout the afternoon. People will feel full pressure returning. File photograph: Getty

 

High temperatures in recent weeks and ageing infrastructure may have contributed to the catastrophic water mains burst that left much of Kerry without supply on Wednesday morning.

About 50,000 people in the county are without water after two burst mains cut supply to Tralee and Killarney along with surrounding areas. A burst main to the central regional water supply scheme on Tuesday evening affected the greater Tralee area.

Ten water tankers are on their way to Kerry after the 700mm diameter pipeline, which is 40 years old, from the Lough Guitane source to the nearby Sheheree reservoir in Muckross burst for a second time in just days .

Crews from Kerry County Council worked overnight to contain the burst. Most households will be back by Wednesday night, said Irish Water.

“Our crews, Kerry Co Council crews in particular, they worked through the night and repaired the main shortly after midnight. The water has been recovering since, it’s filling up, but of course there’s a deficit in people’s supply in the meantime, so it’s a very slow matter for it to recharge. We have deployed tankers of water right across the region and we’ve also managed to rezone the network with what water was in the system so we’ve been able to sustain supplies to the hospitals and to the Covid centres in Tralee and Killarney,” said Irish Water head of asset operations Anna Brosnan.

“The supply is gradually recovering . . . we are balancing the network to ensure that the water is spread as evenly as possible. People in the outlying areas and the higher areas will be the last to receive full pressure back.”

The expectation is that service will be restored throughout the afternoon, when people will see full water pressure returning.

The burst was reported at 5pm and repaired at 2am, but was followed by a further mains break to the scheme on Wednesday morning. It is expected to cause disruption to supply throughout Wednesday.

Affected areas include Tralee, Killarney, Castleisland, Farranfore-Firies and Ballymacelligott. The last recorded break of the Sheheree pipeline was in 2018.

‘Like a river’

Micheal Leanne, a worker at Sherwood’s Pub in Farranfore said the “supply burst, and it literally flows down the village like a river”.

Located halfway between Tralee and Killarney, the village has been among those most affected by the outage. The pub – the only one in the village – was forced to close on Wednesday.

“The water flew across the road – not into the actual premises, but all the surrounding area. The council had to come out and power wash the area. They left filth, muck and dirt on our outdoor seating area and it flew into the back yard, so the council had to clean that for us as well,” said Mr Leanne.

“We were told Kerry County Council were to fix the issue in September. They were supposed to do it previously but there was a funding issue.”

Independent Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae said people around the Castleisland and Currow area have been without a consistent water supply since last Friday, citing the bursting of a subsidiary pipe in the area.

“Irish Water should be embarrassed and ashamed at the water infrastructure in Co Kerry,” said Mr Healy-Rae.

“On Monday there were a lot of pubs that opened for the first time since March 2020 and here they are now without any water. You have parents waking up this morning without water to wash their children and it’s simply not good enough,” he said.

“I can’t tell you what’s happening in the rest of the country, but I can tell you what’s happening in Kerry; our water infrastructure is crumbling.”

Mr Healy-Rae cited the fact the water main that broke on Tuesday was over 40 years old, to which he added: “Can you imagine putting a roof on a house and leaving it there for 40 years without touching it?”

He said: “What are we supposed to do? Put a rubber band around it and hope that it holds?”

Ageing infrastructure

High temperatures of recent days leading to drying out of the ground may have led to the break and ageing infrastructure is a factor Irish Water has to contend with nationally, said Ms Brosnan.

The tankers are expected to be in the towns of Killarney, Tralee, Castleisland and Farranfore.

Supply in Farranfore had been out for five days after a separate rupture there on Friday of the mains pipeline, and there are regular bursts there. Heavy trucks on the N22 at Farranfore are believed to contribute to the problem in the area, but that line is to be replaced in September, said Ms Brosnan.