Louth water supply shortage may go into ‘Friday or the weekend’
70,000 residents in Meath and Louth deprived of regular water supplies
It may take until Friday or the weekend until normal water supply resumes in the northeast, Irish Water has said, as tens of thousands of residents enter their sixth day without water.
The water shortages in the north east will not change the Government's approach to funding Irish Water or the decision to abolish water charges, according to the Minister for Housing and Local Government Eoghan Murphy, who was to visit the affected areas on Tuesday evening.
Water resources in Drogheda Town, Clogherhead and Termonfeckin will continue to be rationed throughout Tuesday following the rupture of a major water main last Thursday.
Irish Water said it was liaising with the Irish Defence Forces to provide support and alternative water supplies to the 70,000 residents in counties Meath and Louth who have been deprived of regular supplies since the rupture last Thursday.
Irish Water said on Tuesday it was also working with Louth and Meath county councils to ensure water tankers were mobilised to as many customers as possible who had been impacted by the burst water main which supplies water to the Staleen Water Treatment Plant.
The damaged water main was also broken in June last year and Irish Water has been warned repeatedly about its condition, according to local people.
Irish Water’s managing director Jerry Grant said the damaged pipe that was causing major problems in the Louth and Meath areas was coincidentally manufactured in Drogheda but had been obsolete for over 30 years.
It was the only section of “Class 25” pipe in the country and it could not be found in the UK either, Mr Grant told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
‘Really messy job’
Repairing the damage “is a really messy job”, he said, adding the only way to repair the pipe was to have a replacement piece made to fit in the Northern Ireland which would be installed Wednesday.
While it was hoped that water supply would be resumed on Thursday, it could be Friday or the weekend before normal supply is resumed, he added.
The burst main has significantly reduced the water supply and led to rationing in an area centred on Drogheda and east Meath, with many households and businesses cut off for much of the time on a rolling basis. Irish Water has set up temporary water stations and brought in tankers.
Local councillors said they were aware of a “history” of warnings about the water main at Roughgrange which brings water from the river Boyne to the Staleen treatment plant, close to Drogheda.
The main burst on Thursday and while Irish Water worked until midnight under arc lights on Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday, the section of pipe was found to be too old to be repaired.
Minister of State and Meath West TD Damien English said situations similar to that in the northeast could happen elsewhere as Irish Water struggled to deal with a pipe network that was more than 50 years old.
“Irish Water needs to spend €13billion to €15billion on the water infrastructure, they need to spend it to ensure there are no more situations like this,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show. That was the reason for the introduction of water charges, he said. “That’s why Irish Water was set up. These pipes are over 50 years old and they need to be replaced.”
Mr English, who is Minister of State at the Department of Housing and Urban Renewal, said there was value in the metering system. He pointed out that there was a 48 per cent leakage problem in Drogheda.
“The only way that’s going to stop is by meters. When a leak is found it is then fixed. Metering is proven. We have to concentrate resources on repairing the existing infrastructure.”
It is understood at least one farmer whose land is traversed by the pipe was in dispute with Irish Water following last year’s repair, right up until Thursday night. Fine Gael county councillor for Meath Paddy Meade said he had made many representations to Irish Water on behalf of the landowner over last year’s repair.
During these representations Mr Meade said he advised Irish Water the asbestos pipe was likely to break again at any minute.
The mayor of Drogheda, Pio Smith, said the condition of the water main was well known. It had been identified for replacement in plans drawn up by the Drogheda municipal council as far back as 2011.
He called on Irish Water to say if the repair underway is a temporary or permanent repair.
A spokeswoman for Irish Water confirmed there was a burst on the same main in June 2016. “After this event we ordered spare repair fittings but unfortunately this time the repairs have not been successful. A bespoke solution is now being engineered. We expect normal supply to be restored on Thursday”.
In its latest update, Irish Water said it had “ mobilised water tankers and containers from across the country”to tackle the problem.
It said three attempts were made to fix the pipe since Friday. “Due to the complexity of the repair and age of the pipe and ability to withstand very high working pressures, the modified fitting arrangements were not holding. The pipe is 50 years old and has warped”.
Irish Water said the work had necessitated a shut-off of the water supply at a time when storage levels in the reservoir were already low.
The utility said water levels were now “critically depleted” leading to further disruptions in Drogheda and parts of east Meath including Duleek, Lagavoreen, Donore, Ashbourne, Stamullen, Kentstown, Kilbride, Ratoath and Ardcath.
Priority of supply had been given to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, and the commercial centre in the town in 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 “rolling schedule” would see intermittent supplies to most areas over the coming days, Irish Water said.
A number of water tankers and stand pipes have been set up across the area. Householders should bring their own containers to avail of the water and water must be boiled before consumption as a precaution. People are also urged to check on their neighbours and family, particularly the elderly, and Irish water has encouraged farmers to reactivate their own wells where possible to conserve water.