Council faces €500k fine over water bug

CLARE County Council faces a potential €500,000 fine for allowing water untreated for the cryptosporidium bug into the Ennis public water system last year.

This follows Judge Joseph Mangan at Ennis District Court yesterday refusing jurisdiction in the case taken by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) after hearing an outline of the facts. The court was told that the council will be pleading guilty in the case.

The maximum fine allowed in the district court is €5,000. However, following Judge Mangan’s ruling, the case will be now be heard in the circuit court where the maximum fine allowed is €500,000.

The council is admitting breaching an EPA directive that it stop allowing water bypass the council’s temporary treatment plant for cryptosporidium, from May 1 to October 21 last year.

Explaining the background, solicitor for the EPA, Alan Doyle, said there was an outbreak of cryptosporidium in the town’s water supply in 2005.

At that time, no water going into the public water supply was filtered for cryptosporidium and instead, was treated by chlorination.

The source of the water supply is the Drumcliffe springs, a shallow source where the parasite can be washed into the supply from the land in heavy rains.

The council installed a temporary plant to filter the water for bugs, but it was not adequate. Between January and March 2008, there were a number of incidents.

On March 31, 2008, the EPA issued a directive to the council that all water going into the Ennis public water supply be filtered for cryptosporidium by May 1.

Mr Doyle said that council complied with the directive by May 16, 2008.

However, there was very heavy rainfall in June and the filters at the plant became clogged and only 60% of the water supply was getting through.

As a result, parts of Ennis were receiving no water and there were concerns over the supply of water for essential services. Mr Doyle said that the Health Service Executive felt that it was preferable to have a supply where the water was contaminated and people could flush their toilets, rather than an inadequate supply.

Mr Doyle said the council decided to bypass the filters for cryptosporidium on June 30 to restore adequate water supplies and it was bypassed on various dates between then and October.

There has been no incidents of cryptosporidium in the water supply since March 2009, he said.

A permanent water supply plant is up and running, but has not been formally commissioned as yet.

Judge Mangan adjourned the case to November 26 for the preparation of a book of evidence.


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