#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 12°C Thursday 28 October 2021
Advertisement

Local politicians say they warned council and Irish Water of illness in Gorey in late August

At least 52 people fell ill after untreated water passed through the system.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Sep 20th 2021, 4:15 PM

LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES IN Gorey, Co Wexford, have expressed concern that their queries about illness in the town being connected to a water supply issue were dismissed by the council and Irish Water.

At least 52 people in Gorey fell ill and some were hospitalised due to the issues at the Creagh plant. Irish Water has acknowledged there were also water quality issues at the plant in Ballymore Eustace, which supplies drinking water to parts of Dublin city.

In a statement this evening, Irish Water said that the incident stemmed from a power failure:

At Creagh water treatment plant in Gorey, County Wexford, an incident which arose from a power failure and a chlorine pump failure resulted in water leaving the plant and entering the public supply without the appropriate level of disinfection for approximately a five day period in August 2021 (19-24).
This incident was not notified to the EPA and the HSE until the 26th August, preventing a timely risk assessment of the impact on drinking water quality and to allow interventions to be taken that could have protected public health.

Irish Water said that it is working with the EPA and Wexford County Council to investigate the incident, including the reasons for the delay in communicating the incident to Irish Water.

The investigation is ongoing and further details will be made available in due course. The EPA has also carried out an audit of the site and we are awaiting the results of this audit.

Irish Water and Wexford County Council have been criticised for failing to warn the public that there were issues with the drinking water supply. 

Speaking to The Journal, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said he and a number of local councillors had raised concern with the council and with Irish Water in late August after reports of illnesses, particularly among those in west Gorey, which is served by the Creagh plant. 

“We were constantly told there wasn’t a problem,” he said. “Yet the evidence continued to point to there being a significant problem.”

Senator Byrne said the scale of the impact of this water contamination has likely been underestimated as he knows of several people who were ill around that time but who did not require treatment in hospital. 

“There were people who didn’t necessarily present, but who talked to me about vomiting, diarrhoea, passing blood in certain instances and serious cramps,” he said. 

“From speaking to local pharmacists there was a run on Imodium tablets,” he said. “I knew people who went for Covid tests before they were under the impression it wasn’t the water. We were being told, myself and local councillors, that there wasn’t a problem.”

Byrne and a number of local councillors met today with senior Irish Water representatives, who he said were “apologetic”.

“We have to go beyond the apology, now it’s about what action will be taken,” he said.

All 800 plants across the country will now be audited, starting with the 20 largest facilities.

Senator Byrne said there was clearly a “communication failure” in this instance and this also needs to be addressed. 

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to find out where in Ireland has the most polluted tap water. See how you can support this project here.

Irish Water chief executive Niall Gleeson told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier today that the company had only been notified there was an issue on 26 August – five days after the problem began – and by that stage the issue had been resolved. 

“Wexford county council had resolved the problem and at that point the untreated water had been in the system, but had flushed through,” he said. “So there was no advantage in putting on a boil water notice at that stage when we were informed.

“The issue here is we should have been informed by Wexford County Council as soon as the incident happened. Now, I know they had some communication issues with their own operational staff around the issue, but that’s what we’re investigating now.”

Gleeson said Irish Water had discovered the issue during an audit of the plant and then informed the HSE and the EPA.

He said there were issues with the process in the plant and with alarms, but there were secondary indicators of an issue that “should have been picked up”.

Gleeson acknowledged that Irish Water “should have known” and is now rolling out an audit of the country’s 20 largest plants.  He said the company will also work with operational staff in local authorities to ensure they understand the processes and alarm conditions. 

“We would like to apologise to all of our customers, these incidences certainly shouldn’t have happened,” Gleeson said.

“We should have communicated quicker, we should have dealt with the HSE and the EPA to agree necessary steps when untreated water went into the system. So there was there was a failure there. We’re taking steps to make sure those failures don’t happen again.”

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Minister O’Brien met with representatives from Irish Water, Dublin City Council, and Wexford County Council yesterday to discuss these next steps.

Speaking at an event today, the minister said what happened was “utterly unacceptable” and was due to a breakdown in process. 

“People were ill because of it and some quite seriously ill and that’s absolutely not acceptable,” he said.

Read next:

COMMENTS (40)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel