Fears 30,000 consumers could be hit with more water shortages

CLARE County Council has expressed concern that there may be a repeat of an incident last weekend where tankers had to be used to keep a local reservoir topped up because it was unable to meet the demand of over 30,000 consumers.

Last Saturday a fleet of fire brigade vehicles and other water tankers was used to transport hundreds of thousands of litres of water from Shannon and Newmarket-on-Fergus to a newwater treatment plant in Ennis after a systems failure threatened to let the town and several villages run dry.

The Ennis Water Treatment plant had been unable to process the required amount of water to cater for consumers on the Ennis water supply when its filtration system became clogged with organic material. This followed intense rainfall which meant that water in the Drumcliffe Spring became contaminated.

As a result, the filtration system at the facility was unable to process enough water to keep the reservoir stocked resulting in a “loss in production.” This forced the council to reduce water pressure over a wide area at night while cleaning of the filtration system was undertaken.

Seven 30,000-litre tankers were hired to back up six fire brigade vehicles each of which can carry 10,000 litres of water. The trucks ferried water to the plant for three full days and were only stood down on Monday night. However, they are on standby again in case the same issue arises this weekend.

Senior Council Engineer Sean Ward said: “We had recovered very well after last weekend but we are concerned that this may happen again this weekend. We are monitoring the situation very closely and there are indications that the problem could arise again but we are unsure as of now. The spring is mainly supplied from surface rivers and the recent rain has resulted in higher levels of organic matter in the water.”

The €9.8m facility was built to provide high quality drinking water to 30,000 consumers in Ennis and environs. The daily requirement is 16,000 cubic metres (4.2m gallons).

The project was developed following the detection of cryptosporidium in the local water source in 2005 which resulted in a four-year partial boil notice being introduced in the area. That drinking water alert was officially lifted in December 2009 just weeks after the new water treatment plant was commissioned.

The facility was designed and built by EPS/Bowen who are also contracted to operate the plant for the next 20 years.

The council says it is working with the company to resolve the issues.

Mr Ward said: “We are in talks at the highest level with the plant’s operators to ensure that a solution is found in the short-term and that this issue doesn’t arise again.”

The affected areas included large parts of Ennis as well as Clarecastle, Barefield, Crusheen and Spancilhill. However, water quality has not been affected to date.


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