Traders and council at odds over flood works

TRADERS and Bandon Town Council are at loggerheads about the extent of anti-flooding measures carried out in the year since the West Cork town suffered its worst flooding in 500 years.

County engineer Noel O’Keeffe, who is also Bandon town manager, says that Trojan work has been done in recent months while angry traders are claiming they “are as exposed this year as they were last year”.

According to Mr O’Keeffe, an early warning system (EWS) has been commissioned by the town council which will give five or six hours advance warning to traders when there is a flood risk.

He says the SMS-based system will be in operation next month.

County council officials have recently obtained all previous Bandon flooding records from the Office of Public Works offices in Dublin and digitised them. It’s hoped the detail on the past flooding experiences will help inform the EWS.

However, trader Gillian Powell, who owns Haven Montessori School, says the “town council hasn’t looked for a phone number from me or any other trader I know”. She has lambasted the council’s last-minute efforts, claiming the EWS should have been in place earlier this summer.

The town council has also said it has cleaned up the River Bandon and dug out more than 5,000 tonnes of gravel from the river during works in June and September.

However, the traders are arguing that much deeper dredging must be carried out and have described efforts to date as “minimal”.

They claim that only 20% of what could have been extracted from the river was removed and that “every inch of dredging counts” as the riverbed is “too high”.

Last week, the town council advertised for tenders to carry out the main drainage element of the town’s Flood Prevention Scheme. It is planned to install large storm water pipes rather than relying on the smaller 12” combined storm and foul water pipes which led to widescale contamination last year.

Work has also started on walls at Market Quay which were water damaged last November. The walls are to be repaired, strengthened and built up by Christmas.

The county engineer has also reassured the townspeople that consultants, who will draw up the detailed design of the €10 million flood relief scheme, will be appointed in the coming weeks. The detailed design will be completed over the next six to nine months, followed by a public consultation process. Building works are on course to start in Spring 2012.

However, traders including Ms Powell and Maria McLoughlin, have said they are disgusted the town council are not “touching the Bridewell River”.

They also said that the appointment of the flood work consultants has been “imminent” since last February.

“Not a great deal has been done and what has been achieved has been done because of unrelenting public pressure on the council.

“Most importantly, what has been done is not enough to avoid a repeat of last November’s flooding if we got 10 inches of rainfall over three days,” said Ms Powell.

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