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Running water in Ballyvolane, Cork City

Irish Water admits 'not meeting standards' after reports of orange liquid pouring from taps

There are concerns that some people who cannot afford to buy large quantities of bottled water will be disproportionately affected.


CORK RESIDENTS WHO have long been plagued with poor water quality have now documented orange water coming from taps – “the worst it’s ever been”.

Uisce Éireann, the state-owned water service company, has admitted that services in the area are “not meeting the standards that impacted customers rightly expect”.

It has also said that the orange water is an “isolated incident”.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that some people who cannot afford to buy large quantities of bottled water will be disproportionately affected by the issue, which has been described as a “disaster”.

John Ó Ríordáin is a resident in Ballyvolane, Cork City. He says there have been consistent issues with water quality since 2022, when Irish Water connected his area to the city’s water supply.

Roughly every two weeks since then Ó Ríordáin has noticed discolouration in his water. He bought filters for all the sinks and showers in his house, but sometimes even they aren’t enough to keep it clear.

I was showering the two kids, and I had a filter in the shower for the water, and suddenly it started to run yellow.

John said at first he thought his filter had given up, but it hadn’t. “It was just incapable of filtering out that amount of whatever that orange stuff [is].”

“We’re just totally in the dark. I don’t know anything about water.

“If it’s clear, I assume it’s okay but I could be all wrong.”

Irish Water has been contacted for comment.

Local Labour councillor John Daniel Maher says it’s a “disaster” that’s “not going away”.

He is often contacted by concerned constituents about the matter.

He doesn’t believe that Irish Water “have the full story” about the public’s frustrations, as many people “have just given up” asking for help.

Moreover, Maher believes there could be many people who need but can’t afford bottled water and are going “under the radar”, as they don’t want to publicise their situation.

“I have a bit of disposable income that I can buy bottled water … I don’t have somebody who’s sick, I don’t have a baby,” he said.

“Imagine all those people that are vulnerable, don’t have money, maybe elderly, maybe have sight issues, that they aren’t actually seeing what’s coming out of their tap.

There are people that are struggling to pay bills and are now being forced to buy bottled water.

Affected residents can call Irish Water on a special number if they have problems, but the line has long wait times after 5pm and on weekends.

The company has said no other reports of discolouration were logged for the Ballyvolane area in recent days, and has urged customers to contact Irish Water directly if they’re affected so that it can investigate. 

As a councillor who meets with Irish Water regularly, Maher questions why the problems persist.

The company said issues generally occur due to the “aged network”. 

“There are approximately 600km of watermains in Cork City, 50% to 60% of which are made from cast iron and over 100 years old,” it explained.

“It would take an investment of approximately half a billion euro over several investment cycles to replace these.

“In old cast iron mains, such as those in Cork City, sediment can become dislodged during repair or upgrade works and can on occasion be carried through to customers’ taps, leading to the water appearing brown or orange. ”

Maher says it’s no excuse.

“We get that the system is old, but the system was old four years ago as well and it was never this bad,” he said.

“Whether it was 2019 or now, we still have the same debate about our infrastructure being outdated.”

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