Local people in Tallanstown were offered the opportunity to demand answers on the ongoing Boil Water Notice in the village and surrounding areas at a fraught public meeting on Wednesday where frustrations at times boiled over at a lack of answers from Irish Water and what some perceived to be inadequate support from public representatives.
Around 50 people from the locality came to Tallanstown Community Hall to hear from TDs, Dáil hopefuls and local councillors but answers were not forthcoming from Irish Water who offered no representative to attend to the meeting due to “resourcing constraints.”
Election candidates Peter Fitzpatrick, Fergus O’Dowd, John McGahon, Declan Breathnach and Ruairi O Murchu attended the meeting as did Ardee Municipal District councillors Jim Tenanty, Pearse McGeough, John Sheridan, Hugh Conlon and Dolores Minogue.
Each of one of the public representatives took it in turns to speak to the assembled residents – who have been living under the Boil Water Notice in the village which today enters it’s seventh month. Initially it affected 2,000 customers but after work carried out at the nearby Tallanstown Water Treatment Plant, that was soon reduced to 600 properties in the area.
Irish Water said in a statement on Wednesday, just hours before the meeting was due to take place, that pending the results of some microbiological monitoring to be carried out, they expected to lift the BWN for around 580 of those properties next week.
This news, while welcomed, did not let Irish Water off the hook from angry locals who aired their displeasure at the meeting. They cited a lack of answers and communication from Irish Water, who have previously only communicated through public reps, media outlets and any customers who have made a complaint and thus been issued with a reference number.
A committee consisting of 16 local residents and Tds and councillors who offered to assist – has been set up, as advised by those public reps at the meeting, to maintain pressure on Irish Water to see out their commitment of lifting the BWN and to ensure people in the area are given answers as to which properties will remain affected. As of the moment, no one has been notified as to what properties will be left with an inadequate water supply after next week.
Deputy O’Dowd told the meeting he had been in contact with Irish Water Chief Operating Officer David Kelly and reading from a text message exchange between the men, O’Dowd said there was expected to be 15 houses remaining under the BWN after next week.
According to O’Dowd’s text message, Mr Kelly also confirmed that if residents wanted to be provided with a water tanker that Irish Water would supply this. This request has previously been turned down by the company, citing that water in a tanker would still need to be boiled prior to consumption.
Declan Breathnach labelled the fiasco “unacceptable.”
“Councillors and TDs have been trying to get as much information as we can and we have been stonewalled in relation to it. I have spoken to the Oireachtas committee and argued that 600 people here are a important as 600,000.
Breathnach claimed that ice-pigging should have been carried out prior to Christmas but machinery required was instead brought to Bailieborough in Cavan where there was a similar problem. He cited the issues with the water source itself, referring to several reports one of which was produced in 2018 referring to pesticides, insecticides and other contaminates in the water.
He called for the installation of booster pumps for the Cavan Hill supply and the Ardee supply to ensure both adequate supply for Tallanstown and that the source of the water in Tallanstown be eliminated. The Fianna Fail candidate also suggested that ‘agitation, in a proper manner, always produces’ – encouraging locals to organise and pursue Irish Water in a vigorous manner.
Cllr John McGahon said that “You’d be better off getting information from the Kremlin or somewhere like that.” The general election candidate lamented the poor communication between Irish Water and customers, a stance that was echoed by his colleagues. “There has been so many false starts with this. Irish Water should be putting a letter through everyone’s letter box.”
Ardee Municipal District councillor John Sheridan said that public representatives had made every effort to get answers from both Irish Water and Louth County Council but “every request we made have fallen on deaf ears.”
He spoke about the costs and lengths people are having to go to obtain clear water and drew attention to “joining of the dots” when people started falling ill in the area last summer. “It was obvious there was far more to this than just an engineering issue.”
Independent councillor Hugh Conlon said he felt Tallanstown residents had been “marginalised because you live in a rural area,” calling the issue a result of an “urban rural divide.” He said the issue may be fixed by replacing the cast iron piping, a remark that was met with strong agreement by some quarters in attendance.
We will have more coverage of last night’s Tallanstown public meeting on LouthNow.ie later today, with more from public representatives at the meeting and concerns from local people who feel they have been left out in the cold by Irish Water.