Irish Water criticised following Kilkee swimming ban

Irish Water has admitted it was aware of issues with the electrical supply at a water pumping station in Co Clare which failed last week resulting in a swimming ban at one of the county’s most popular beaches.

Irish Water criticised following Kilkee swimming ban

Sources have also claimed that Irish Water had been repeatedly warned by Clare County Council that the power supply at the pump station was not adequate to operate a generator there.

Irish Water has not confirmed whether it received such a warning from the local authority but said: “Both Irish Water and Clare County Council are aware of electrical issues at the Kilkee Pumping Station. These are being addressed as part of the ongoing upgrade works.”

Irish Water has said that a generator, more than 30 years old, which was in extremely poor condition, was taken off site in May to see if it could be refurbished.

“However, this was not possible and the procurement process to purchase a new generator commenced. An order to purchase will be issued in the next couple of days,” it said.

A spokesperson added: “There is an historical electrical issue with the pumping station at Kilkee whereby the electricity supply to the station is restrictive, especially in times of high demand. As part of the ongoing upgrade works, Irish Water will be applying to the ESB for an increase in the supply to address this issue.”

A temporary generator was due on site yesterday. In the meantime, an electrical contractor has remained on site round-the-clock on standby in the event that the electrical panel trips.

“The contractor will provide an on-call presence over the weekend,” Irish Water said. “The temporary generator will remain in place until the permanent generator is installed. Once complete the pump station should be resilient to normal weather events.”

While the pumping station in Kilkee appears to have functioned normally since last weeks failure, the latest closure of the beach at Kilkee has been blamed on recent heavy rainfall. Clare County Council has confirmed that bathing restrictions at Kilkee have now been lifted.

Staff from the Environment section of Clare County Council conducted water quality tests on Monday.

“Public bathing notices and red flags indicating that swimming is prohibited at Kilkee were originally put in place on July 26 due to the malfunction of a pumping station which has since been rectified by Irish Water,” the authority said.

“The swimming prohibition was maintained on Monday due to the possibility of increased levels of bacteria in the bathing water following heavy rainfall over the weekend.

“On the advice of the HSE and following analysis of water samples taken on Monday, Clare Council today announced the lifting of all restrictions relating to bathing at Kilkee. Lifeguards are on duty while the Blue Flag is once again flying at the beach.”

Kilkee businessman Cillian Murphy expressed doubts about claims that rainfall is to blame for the most recent beach closure.

“I checked with the local weather station and more water fell during the previous weekend and there was no such discharge into the sea,” said Mr Murphy.

“Something has changed. How could the system not cope with the weekend’s rain when the previous weekend there was three times as much rain? This is just not right at all.

“These are the busiest four weeks of the year for my business and I shouldn’t have to be chasing Irish Water, the council, or our politicians for answers. It’s people’s businesses and livelihoods we’re talking about here.”

Irish Water has also said it is available to meet members of the local Chamber of Commerce and bring them on a tour of the pump station to demonstrate the problems and highlight the upgrade works that have been completed to date.

This offer came after the local chamber issued a damning statement about the issues in Kilkee.

The chamber statement said: “We are bitterly disappointed by the reaction of Irish Water to the unfolding situation with regards the pollution of Kilkee Beach from the wastewater pumping system.”

“Many people who have chosen to spend their disposable income on a holiday in Kilkee — this bathing ban means their holiday activities are curtailed. They have chosen the town precisely because they trust the beach is a safe and wonderful space for their children to play on.

"This trust has been breached, and the consequences of this breach will be felt for a long time in reduced bookings and visitor numbers to the town.”

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