herald

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Boil water notice likely to remain as heavy rain brings fresh problems

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy at Leixlip Water Treatment Plant, where he was visiting after a second boil water notice in two weeks was issued to around 600,000 people
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy at Leixlip Water Treatment Plant, where he was visiting after a second boil water notice in two weeks was issued to around 600,000 people

Another day of heavy rain could scupper hopes of getting the boil water notice affecting 600,000 people lifted.

Downpours last Saturday led to the current problems at the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant, which serves large parts of Dublin as well as Kildare and Meath.

The problem was made worse by even heavier rain on Monday that was yesterday still making its way into the raw water that feeds into the plant.

Meanwhile, Met Eireann iss-ued a yellow rainfall warning, which will remain in effect in the Greater Dublin Area until this evening.

Irish Water said it could not definitively predict what effect the weather would have, but hopes were slim that today would bring the crucial third successive clear test from the daily samples taken from the plant.

Cloudiness

"We are looking at a range of solutions to ensure that increases in cloudiness in the water can be managed more effectively," the company said.

"It is not possible to say conclusively at this time what impact any particular weather warning may have on the water produced, but we will be monitoring the situation closely."

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy visited the facility yesterday to witness the problems that have arisen at the plant, which also left the same 600,000 people under warnings to boil their water for three days at the end of last month.

The problem lies with the old section of the plant where filter beds are inadequate to deal with raw water that has high levels of cloudiness caused by the presence of sediment and dirt which increases during prolonged heavy rain.

Any bits left behind after filtering pose a potential risk of contamination by the cryptosporidium and giardia parasites and the water cannot be passed as safe for drinking without boiling.

Leixlip Water Treatment Plant
Leixlip Water Treatment Plant

Replacement of the filter beds has been going on since last year but will not be completed until the middle of next year.

The facility cannot be shut down to speed up the process as it provides two-thirds of the water used by the 600,000 people and its shutdown would quickly lead to water shortages.

A new section of the plant is equipped with more modern filters and is handling the cloudy water, but the two supplies are mixed as they leave the plant so the boil water notice has to apply to the entire supply.

There was confusion for some householders in the reg-ion who consulted a newly updated map of the affected region yesterday and found they were now included when they escaped the previous warning.

Irish Water said the map was being continually refined and the outer areas were extended "to err on the side of caution".

A series of meetings took place yesterday between Irish Water management and Fingal County Council, which operates the plant on Irish Water's behalf, as technicians tried to find ways of reducing the strain on the filters.

Chemicals being delivered there yesterday amid ongoing problems
Chemicals being delivered there yesterday amid ongoing problems

No decision to lift the boil water notice can be taken without the backing of the HSE and the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been highly critical of the way the plant was run after last month's boil water notice and an earlier unpublicised incident last March.

Vulnerable

People who have registered with Irish Water as vulnerable customers are entitled to be supplied with bottled water by the company during the period.

It is still possible to register with the company to be placed on the vulnerable list.

However, Irish Water said it contacted all vulnerable customers at the start of the current difficulties and only one had taken up the offer of a bottled supply.

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