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Sunday 17 November 2019

Water notice could stretch into bank holiday weekend for some

Emma Purcell (8) uses bottled water to brush her teeth at her home in north Co Dublin
Emma Purcell (8) uses bottled water to brush her teeth at her home in north Co Dublin

The Boil Water Notice that led to panic-buying in the Greater Dublin Area may extend into the bank holiday weekend for some residents, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has revealed.

A mechanical fault in the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant on Tuesday morning resulted in 20pc of water becoming undrinkable in parts of Dublin, Kildare and Meath.

Speaking in the Dail, Mr Murphy said that the vast majority of the 600,000 people affected will probably have their drinking water back before Saturday.

However, the notice may remain in place for a much smaller group of homes for a longer period.

"We hope, providing everything goes well, that we will be able to take the vast majority of people off that Boil Water Notice before the bank holiday weekend," he said.

"There may be a number of households, much more reduced than what we have today, that might continue with the notice over the period of the weekend.

"But that remains to be seen depending on the testing."

Warning

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that his own home and family had been hit by the warning issued to homes and businesses in the Greater Dublin Area.

He said that it would be days before the matter was rectified and declined to state when the all-clear would be given.

The Taoiseach added that there was no question of supplying water tankers because the Boil Water Notice was a precautionary matter.

Patricia Dillon, from Howth, fills her trolley at SuperValu, Sutton Cross
Patricia Dillon, from Howth, fills her trolley at SuperValu, Sutton Cross

People have been rushing to their local supermarkets to stock up on water out of fear that the notice will run into the bank holiday weekend.

Stores are experiencing an increased demand from frenzied customers, with many buying trolley-loads of bottled water.

Some stores have taken to imposing a limit on the number of bottles of water each customer can buy.

One SuperValu in Dublin is telling customers via a shop sign that bottled water is in scarce supply.

"As a result, there is a quota of four bottles of two-litre and three bottles of five-litre water per customer," the notice read.

Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary questioned the ability of Irish Water to plan for and manage a big problem like this one.

Matt Masterson from Leixlip stocks up on water at Lidl
Matt Masterson from Leixlip stocks up on water at Lidl

He noted that after the website crashed, the company advised people to use services like Twitter, and it was referring them to its website to consult maps which were hard to read.

"It does not suggest that Irish Water has the contingency plans to deal with a situation like this," Mr Calleary said.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said this was the most extensive boil water warning issued by Irish Water and she asked whether the current incident and a similar incident in March were linked.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will conduct an audit of the plant this afternoon and has been asked to attend a hearing of the Oireachtas Housing Committee next month with Irish Water, to explain the circumstances surrounding then notice.

Hearings on the debacle have been set for Tuesday, November 5, with committee chair Noel Rock saying they will also seek the attendance of officials from the HSE and Fingal County Council.

"It's our job to hold people to account and that's what we will do. Six hundred thousand people being left without safe drinking water in north Dublin and surrounds demands explanations," Mr Rock said.

"We need to get to the bottom of it and hear from those responsible, on the record, how they'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

In a statement, Irish Water said it is investigating how the situation arose with Fingal County Council and is working to ensure it does not reoccur.

Yvonne Harris, Irish Water's head of customer operations apologised for the impact and inconvenience caused.

"We would like to reassure our customers that Irish Water's drinking water and operational experts are working with our colleagues in Fingal County Council to resolve this issue as quickly as possible," she said.

"Fingal County Council, the HSE and Irish Water will be supporting the EPA in their audit of the plant."

Irish Water also stated that it has contacted registered vulnerable customers who are affected by the notice.

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