Irish Water’s handling of Galway contamination issue criticised

Warnings over kerosene in tap water issued to 75 homes five days after first complaint

Caitriona Moorish (above) eported the water contamination last week at Moyola Park in Newcastle, Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Caitriona Moorish (above) eported the water contamination last week at Moyola Park in Newcastle, Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Irish Water’s handling of a domestic water contamination issue in Galway has been criticised by affected residents who have questioned why it took so long for an alert to be issued.

Warnings of kerosene contamination were issued to 75 houses in Moyola Park, Newcastle, Galway on Wednesday night, five days after the first complaint was lodged.

The residents were told not to drink the water, nor use it for brushing teeth, dish washing, bathing, showering or food preparation.

The notice says domestic filters will not render the water safe to drink.

It advises that ice cubes should be discarded, and dishwashers should not be used as the rinse cycle will leave a “film” on dishes and cutlery.

Residents have been told that “short, one-off exposure to kerosene” is unlikely to have any long-term effects, but drinking kerosene-based fluids can cause dizziness, headaches, vomiting and can cause rashes with repeated exposure to skin.

Tankered water

Tankered water was delivered to the housing estate on Thursday morning.

The contamination is believed to have occurred accidentally during a routine kerosene oil delivery.

Resident Caitriona Moorish said a visitor from Enniskillen had alerted her to a smell resembling “turpentine” from her tap, and she contacted a 24-hour emergency telephone line at about 8.20am on Saturday.

She was put through to Galway City Council staff, and said they responded immediately, tested the water and flushed through the system at her home.

Further testing took place on Tuesday and it became apparent the problem was more extensive.

“However, Irish Water did not make personal contact, and I only learned from the radio on Thursday morning that we couldn’t drink the water,” she said. “At no time had this been mentioned to us.

“There are a lot of elderly people living in this estate, and issuing flyers without making personal contact is not necessarily going to inform people,” she said.

“Had it been faecal contamination, we would probably have received earlier notice, but it seems in this case the protocols did not work.”

Fellow resident Zuzana Rybarova, who is six months pregnant, said she only learned of the issue through an email sent to her boyfriend.

“We noticed that the water had a bad smell at the weekend, but it seems a long time to wait to tell us,”she said.

“In Slovakia, and in Switzerland where we have lived, the water is always very clear.”

Two complaints

Irish Water, which issued its first statement on the issue just before 5pm on Thursday, said that after investigation of two complaints - on March 21st and the evening of March 23rd, “the source of contamination was identified and isolated” on Tuesday, March 24th.

“Following a meeting between Irish Water, the HSE and Galway City Council on Wednesday, March 25th, it was agreed to issue a notice to residents advising them not to use their water for any reason throughout Moyola Park,” it said.

“A full flushing of the water supply and appropriate water quality testing in Moyola Park is now being undertaken,” it said, and water tankers would be provided until tests showed the supply was fit for consumption.

“All affected households have been notified via mail drop and we are currently calling door to door,” it said. Alternative shower facilities were being provided at a local venue, it said. It said elderly residents were “being assisted where possible”.