A major upgrade of the Kenmare Water Treatment plant will ensure safer water for the south Kerry town — but it will not solve a long-term problem of a new water source.
A €4.5m contract was awarded by Irish Water to Glan Agua Ltd which is also, currently, building a new €31m plant at Kerry’s biggest water source at Lough Guitane, near Killarney.
However, water is a vexed issue in Kenmare, where the 2,100-plus population increases significantly in the summer months.
The current supply is a small lake situated near Moll’s Gap.
The treatment plant at Kenmare does not provide adequate treatment for cryptosporidium or trihalomethanes (THMs) and Kenmare has been included on the EPA’s Remedial Action List.
The works will mean its removal from the EPA radar.
However, Irish Water also said: “Long-term availability of water for the Kenmare area remains an issue” and they indicated the utility company would be pursuing “sustainable longer-term sources”.
Works on the upgrade of the treatment plan are scheduled to commence in early 2017, in a contract due to take 12 months to complete.
Meanwhile, the nearby small community of Bonane, at the head of the Sheen River, which had been earmarked for major water abstraction for Kenmare, challenged Kerry County Council in the courts, and won on the grounds environmental concerns had been ignored.
The Bonane community council, local councillors, anglers, and environmentalists wanted the water to come from mountain lakes. Council management refused, due to likely costs, and also lakes’ conservation designations.
A majority of councillors, in 2010, supported the river water as the source after management said the members could be sued. A water source has been on the agenda since 2002.
At Kerry Co Council’s annual budget meeting last week, Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae raised the uncomfortable issue of “legal costs regarding the Sheen”, asking who had paid out and the costs involved.
Kerry Chief executive Moira Murrell said the legal bill was “either funded by the department or liabilities outstanding went across to Irish Water.”
She did not have exact details but this was “the general principle”.
Environmental studies to seek a source will have to rule out the River Sheen, the residents confidently say.
Otherwise, they warned, they are up for the fight again.
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