Authorities knew about a possible kerosene contamination in a water supply five days before notices were issued advising residents not to drink the water, it has emerged.
The contamination took place in the Moyola Park area of Galway and affected about 80 houses.
Kerosene is thought to have entered the water last Thursday, March 19, with Galway City Council and Irish Water being made aware of the situation two days later.
“An initial complaint of a smell of kerosene at a specific location in Moyola Park was made on Saturday, March 21, following which staff of Galway City Council visited the site and flushed the water supply at the location,” said an Irish Water spokesperson.
“A further complaint was received on Monday evening, March 23, following which council staff acting on behalf of Irish Water investigated the incident first thing on Tuesday morning. The source of contamination was identified and isolated.”
Yet it was a further two days before residents were issued with a notice advising them against drinking or using the water.
Irish Water and Galway City Council distributed a joint notice on Wednesday night. It advised residents not to use tap water for drinking, preparing food, washing dishes, brushing teeth, or bathing.
It also advised anyone experiencing ill health to contact their GP, and explained that while “a short, one-off exposure to kerosene is unlikely to result in any long-term effects”, ingesting the chemical may cause dizziness, headaches, and vomiting. Repeated skin exposure could result in a rash.
— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) March 26, 2015
While the cause of the contamination has not been officially confirmed, it is thought to have been a result of human error.
“It was a private contamination that ended up in public water due to, in my understanding, an oil delivery that pumped oil into someone’s water tank instead of the oil tank,” said Fine Gael councillor Frank Fahy.
“The water tank was also connected to the mains, so the oil ended up in public water. There would have been no issue if the oil hadn’t gone into the wrong tank.”
Mr Fahy expressed frustration at the time taken to tell people about the problem, despite an obvious risk to health.
“I’m disappointed in the length of time it took to notify people,” he said.
“That’s the bigger issue here. A notice to the residents wasn’t sent out until 8pm on Wednesday, nearly a week after the contamination occurred. I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
— Shane (@enahs) March 25, 2015
Tankered water has since been made available in the area, though this water still needs to be boiled before use.
Mr Fahy said he has been going door to door in the housing estate bringing water to some of the elderly people who live there.
“I brought some water in to a woman who is 87 years of age. She has to have help, she’s not in a position to be going out and filling up containers of water from tankers.”
A full flushing of the water supply in Moyola Park is underway, along with regular testing of the water.
Water supply for residents in Moyola Park in #Galway
Kerosene contamination here a result of human error pic.twitter.com/qVGBAqL6SL— Pat McGrath (@patmcgrath) March 26, 2015
Queries about the water supply can be directed to Irish Water at 1890 278 278.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved