6,500km of piping at risk of bursting

Irish Water has warned that some 6,500km of piping in the country’s network is at risk of bursting in a similar fashion to the disruption that has left tens of thousands of homes in Louth and Meath without water for almost a week now.

The utility company said the length of piping at risk amounts to some 10% of the entire network.

Sean Laffey, head of asset management at Irish Water, said there is about 63,000km of water mains in the country.

“We have a very dispersed water distribution network, and from an analysis of that network on a risk basis we estimate that roughly 10%, or 6,500km, of that would be at high risk of bursting,” Mr Laffey told RTÉ’s News at One.

“But that being said, we get bursts every day of the week on the network and, generally, working with local authorities and contractors we actually repair those within 12 to 24 hours so we keep disruption to a minimum.

“To put it in context, the average age of water networks in European Union countries is about 36 years; ours averages between 65 and 85 years old.”

Households in Drogheda and parts of Meath have been advised it may be the weekend before normal supply is resumed.

The shortages have been caused by a burst water main which is supplying water to the Staleen Water Treatment Plant.

Mr Laffey said the current repair to the pipeline is a patch, and part of a three-stage process to remedy the issue.

The second stage will require a full repair of the pipe before the replacement of some 2.2km of the network into the plant.

“We have actually readmitted water to the pipe and the water level in the pipe has made it up past the pipe and the patch is doing very well. We’re very pleased with how it’s performing,” said Mr Laffey.

“We are going to take this very slowly and incrementally so we will stop filling the pipe at various points during the day to check on the integrity of the pipe and the patch and then we will continue to refill.

“We expect a small level of leakage from the patch, as the patch is only a temporary repair.

“We expect a permanent repair to be in, in two weeks’ time, but the absolute objective here is to get water back into the treatment plant and back out into the system.

“For the full repair, we expect that will be done in two to three weeks, we don’t anticipate that customers will see any disruption of service because by that stage the reservoirs will be restored and, generally speaking, there’s 24 to 36 hours’ storage in those reservoirs.”

Mobile tankers provided almost 280,000 litres of water from three alternate reservoirs into the network to provide water to Staleen and Termonfeckin/Clogherhead pump stations.

Meanwhile, the defence forces is providing two 10,000-litre water bowsers and four 1,000-litre water bowsers to Irish Water while the 27th Infantry Battalion is also providing 21 personnel, including five drivers. The remaining personnel will maintain the water bowsers in co-operation with the utility company.

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