herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Concerns about flooding at hospital since 2009

CONCERNS existed about flooding at Letterkenny General Hospital going back to 2009, four years prior to a major flood which caused millions in damage and shut down the emergency department, a new report has found.

A planning report on the flooding, prepared by Donegal County Council confirms that the July 2013 flood, which caused almost €40m worth of damage occurred in the exact same circumstances as a previous incident in 2009.

Local councillor Dessie Shiels, who called for the report, has hit out at the HSE over its handling of flooding at Letterkenny hospital in the wake of the report.

He said the report shows there was pre-existing knowledge of flood risks at the hospital going back to 2009 when a flood occurred at the construction site of the Emergency Department.

On that occasion the flood was caused when a screen at the inlet point to the newly extended culvert became blocked with debris following heavy rainfall.

The report states that the exact same circumstances led to the major flood event at the hospital in July 2013, which caused almost €40 million worth of damage. However, it found no evidence to suggest the flood was caused by the diameter or capacity of the 1350mm culvert.

A subsequent flood in August 2014 was not linked to the culvert and occurred as a result of a surcharge from a piped stream due to heavy rain.

However, the report found that the council had raised concerns in 2013 about possible future flooding at the hospital as a result of heavy rain.

When concerns were raised by the council as to future flooding, it was informed by Tobin Engineers that "they were contracted by the HSE to progress the design of the installation of the overflow pipe only and it was not their remit to address potential flooding around the remainder of the hospital."

The council also raised concerns about potential flood risks to the Emergency Department including from surface water discharging from lands to the north of the department and from the R229 road directly above the hospital.

However, "as these fell outside the scope of the application the Planning Authority were not in a position to seek the construction of same as part of the proposed development," the report states.

It also revealed that conditions set out by the council were not complied with, including construction of a slotted drainage channel to prevent surface water discharging from the R229 road.

Commenting on the report Cllr Shiels said: "It has always been my position that the HSE did not take proper steps to alleviate flood risks which consequently failed to prevent the two major floods occurring in July 2013 and then again last year in August 2014.

"There was pre-existing knowledge of flood risks at the hospital which were not acted upon," he said.

"The HSE knew there was a problem in 2009 but by not acting on it allowed the disastrous July 2013 flood to happen," he added.

He also criticised the HSE's failure to heed the concern of the council following the 2013 flood.

"The HSE ignored warnings from Donegal County Council planners about the risks of further serious flooding which in the event then allowed the second flood to occur in August 2014," he added.

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