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Roscommon-South Leitrim

This Roscommon deli-owner spent €1,000 of his own money to install a clean water system

The owner of Benny’s Deli, on Castlerea’s Main Street, grew tired of constant ‘boil water’ notices in the town and decided to take matters into his own hands.

THERE’S A BY-ELECTION under-way in Roscommon-South Leitrim — and water is one of the main issues.

‘Boil notices’ are still in place across large swathes of the constituency. And in some areas, householders have been unable to drink their tap water for years.

Take a quick walk around Castlerea — a town of some 3,000 people and home of the famous Livestock Mart — and the extent of the problem quickly becomes apparent…

Notices alerting visitors to the situation are plastered across the the doors of cafés and hotels — while one local who spoke to said he was spending around €20 extra on his grocery bill each week for bottled water.

Of course, all of the candidates running to fill the seat left vacant by Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s election to Europe have their own positions on the issue — but at corner of Main Street, one man has the matter into his own hands…

Benny O’Connell of Benny’s Deli [Daragh Brophy/]

Benny O’Connell and his family has been running a deli and daytime diner in the town since 1981.

The business moved to its new, expanded premises in 2005 — and it currently employs 19 people. For two of those last nine years, however, they’ve been dealing with severe water restrictions, brought about by the presence of Cryptosporidium.

The boil notice currently in effect — not just in Castlerea, but for users of the South Roscommon, Boyle and North East schemes — means that water must be boiled before consumption… That rules out use of tap-water for a whole range of ordinary purposes — drinking (obviously), preparing salads, making ice…

“There were intermittent boil water notices — so in the end we decided to explore the possibility of putting in our own filtration system,” O’Connell explains, over a cup of coffee.

The business still has to shell out around €4,000 a year for water charges, he says. But — aside from the initial outlay of around a thousand euro — the cost of his three-stage filtration system is relatively low, with filters costing around €20 per month.

The filtration system at Benny’s [Daragh Brophy/]

“It’s a sort of a three-tier system.

There’s an initial filter which takes out any of the grit. It goes through a UV system then, which kills any bacteria, and then there’s a fine filter… The Cryptosporidium is the real problem in Castlerea, and the Crypto has to be filtered out.

O’Connell spoke to plumbing experts and the HSE for advice before deciding on the system… Its installation means that ‘Benny’s’ is one of the few businesses in the town that can serve you a glass of water straight from the tap.

Still, as you might imagine — he’s far from happy with the extra costs involved, and the fact that he still has to pay for water anyway.

“It’s a huge cost. It’s crazy.

No other outfit selling a product would get away with it. It’s basic consumer law — if you supply something that’s defective you shouldn’t pay for it.

The system is — to his knowledge, at least — the only one like it in Castlerea.

You have to bear in mind that we’re coming out of the longest recession in probably 20 years. A lot of businesses wouldn’t be able to fund it. They would be busy trying to stay in business.

 [Daragh Brophy/]

Before heads off to hit the by-election trail, further down the Main Street, O’Connell is eager to point out that there’s plenty of positive things going on in Castlerea, away from the water issue.

As you can see — business is good at the moment… We just had three businesses open in the last while too, so there’s plenty of good news here.

Read: Broken promises and invisible candidates: Here’s what we learned from last night’s Prime Time debate

Read: How’s the ‘Ming’ by-election shaping up?… We hit the trail in Roscommon-South Leitrim

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