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Demand for water on Achill Island due to staycationers means it's now unsafe to drink

Demand for water is roughly 50% higher than this time last year.

Keem Beach on Achill Island.
Keem Beach on Achill Island.
Image: Trish Punch/PA Images

INCREASED DEMAND FOR water on Achill Island as a result to people holidaying there has led to a do not consume notice for the area.

Irish Water has said demand for water at the Achill Water Treatment Plant has resulted in elevated levels of aluminium and turbidity being detected. 

The public drinking water quality is therefore considered to be “significantly compromised and an immediate risk to your health”.

People on Achill are being urged to seek water from a number of alternative sources with Irish Water saying that vulnerable customers are being contacted so they can be supplied with bottled water.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Irish Water’s Sean Laffey said that the problem is an “unexpected” result of staycationing and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s an unexpected and unintended consequence of the current Covid-19 crisis, and the fact that people are choosing to vacation in Ireland. In fact, where we’re seeing levels of demand from the water treatment plant in Achill that are roughly 50% higher than this time last year,” he said.

The water treatment plant in Achill has a design capacity for about 3,000 people, however over the last number of weeks increased numbers of visitors to the area has meant that the demand for drinking water on the island is actually greater than the volume of water that can be safely produced at the plant. This has resulted in an increase in aluminium levels in the drinking water and a decision was taken last Friday in consultation with Mayo County Council and the HSE to impose a do not consume notice on the area served by the treatment plant. 

Laffey added that boiling the water won’t render it safe to drink but that it can be used for other purposes: 

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“What we’re saying to everyone and it’s very important to note is that this is not a boil water notice. Boiling the water does not make it safe to drink, this is a ‘do not consume notice’, which means that the water should not be used for things like drinking or drinks made with water, food preparation or brushing your teeth.

“However, it’s also important to note that the water can be used for things like personal hygiene, bathing, flushing, toilets, laundry and washing of utensils. And I think it’s vitally important that everyone should continue to wash their hands during the current public health emergency.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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