37,000 people across Co Longford will wake up this morning and spend their day drinking contaminated water.
Irish Water is currently endeavouring to eliminate the toxins in the water which include Trihalomethanes (THMs) - chemicals formed by the reaction of naturally occurring dissolved organic material and chlorine which is used for disinfection in order to protect against pathogenic bacteria.
The situation is now so serious that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed the four water systems in the county on its Remedial Action List (RAL). The four plants include the Ballymahon Water Supply, the Longford Central Supply Scheme, the Granard Water Supply Scheme and the Loch Gowna Water Supply Scheme.
Irish Water, meanwhile, says it is investing in on-going projects to address the different risks to the water supplies affecting over 37,000 people in the county.
“Works carried out by Irish Water over recent years and months have seen a vast improvement in the quality of drinking water being delivered to the public in Longford,” Irish Water said in a statement before pointing out that the local water supplies were on the RAL due to “elevated” Trihalomethanes (THMs).
“Irish Water has put in place the first national THMs plan and a prioritised programme of investment to address all inadequacies in drinking water parameters including THMs.
“By 2021 the utility plans to reduce the number of schemes on the RAL to zero with an investment of €327m in upgrading water supplies at risk from THMs.”
Local area representative in the Longford Municipal District, Cllr Peggy Nolan (FG) said there was “no words” to describe the serious and scandalous nature of the unfolding water situation in Co Longford.
She has been endeavouring to have fluoride removed from the local water supply for the last 10 years, but to no avail.
And, while Irish Water says it is progressing with assessing and monitoring the raw water sources to the Abbeyshrule Water Treatment Plant which supplies the Ballymahon Water Supply, Cllr Nolan says that heads will roll at Irish Water if it becomes apparent that the drinking water in Co Longford became contaminated and the matter was not made public immediately. “I have spoken publicly on many occasions about the safety element of our water and the chemicals being bucketed into it,” she fumed, before pointing out that fluoride must be removed from the local water supply.
“To hear now that there are even more dangerous chemicals in the water supply is just infuriating and why is this matter only being flagged now?.”
Currently, Irish Water is carrying out works in Abbeyshrule and these works are expected to reach completion during the summer.
The progress there will then be monitored by the EPA for a certain period of time before the Ballymahon Water supply can be removed from the RAL.
Interim work on the Longford Central Supply Scheme including an upgrade of the disinfection process at the plant will also commence soon and Irish Water says it is currently dealing with the treatment plant at Lough Kinale which supplies the Granard area with its water.
“Irish Water has commenced upgrade work at the plant which includes a disinfection programme and a raw water monitoring programme has been put in place,” the statement said.
“Installation and commissioning is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017 and this programme will enable Irish Water to fully assess the performance of the treatment process at the plant.”
Meanwhile, the Leader has learned that the Loch Gowna water supply, sourced from the Smear Water Treatment Plant will also undergo a disinfection programme.
“A raw water monitoring programme has been put in place since March last year and will be carried out for a 12 month period,” a spokesperson added, before pointing out that these programmes would enable Irish Water to fully assess the performance of the treatment process at the plant.
Meanwhile, Cllr Nolan said that water contamination had become a worldwide problem in recent years.
“If this situation in Co Longford reflects negatively on the people that I represent then by God heads will roll,” she fumed.
“I am livid and if I find out that necessary information in respect of all this was not brought into the public domain when it needed to be, then there will be war.”
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