Irish Water has finally agreed to provide drinking water to residents of a housing estate where excess levels of lead were found in the public supply.
From 12pm yesterday, people in St Brendan’s Park in Tralee, Co Kerry, began drawing water from a public tap at the local town council depot in nearby Rock St.
A deputation of frustrated residents walked out of a meeting of Tralee Municipal Authority earlier this week, saying they were tired of being “messed about’’ and not having the drinking water problems dealt with.
Tests confirmed that lead levels in the supply to some of the houses were several times above recommended limits.
The residents are adamant they will not pay water charges until they have clean and safe drinking water.
Following meetings between Kerry County Council, Irish Water, and the HSE in Tralee, mayor Jim Finucane yesterday confirmed an alternative drinking water supply was being provided.
“The council wanted to respond in a practical way and this is the best option we have,” he said. “The HSE is satisfied this is the most efficient way to provide alternative drinking waster to the residents.”
According to the council, it is up to the HSE to declare the water unfit for human consumption.
A ban on drinking water would mean the residents would not have to pay for usage until the situation was remedied, but the HSE has not acted on requests to impose a ban.
The tap supply will be available to residents until pipe replacement works are completed next year.
The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, brought court proceedings against Irish Water and Kerry County Council over the delays in removing lead pipes in St Brendan’s Park.
At Tralee District Court on Wednesday, Judge James O’Connor adjourned the case “for mention only” on December 17. He did, however, ask why the EPA would continue to pursue two “other arms” of the State after hearing works had begun on the project.
Frustrated homeowners facing water charges and confusion over the new levy will be able to now have their queries fastracked through elected representatives and a special hotline to Irish Water.
Representatives with the semi-state company met TDs and senators in Leinster House this week and faced complaints and questions about charges and services.
Letters given to Oireachtas members include a special hotline number linking to dedicated staff who will address questions about constituents’ charges and water services.
The company also told members that it has hired a southern information officer as well as another for the north west region.
The moves follow complaints from TDs that they were waiting more than 45 minutes on normal phonelines with their queries and accusations that Irish Water’s communications strategy was a “shambles”.
Councillors around the country this week have also been given a separate phoneline number to address their complaints and queries.
The phone lines for elected members will be open from 9am to 5.30pm daily and are separate from the normal phone lines which are getting thousands of callers a day.
Irish Water has also agreed to come to Leinster House and give the Oireachtas a weekly update on problems.
— Juno McEnroe
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