Irish Water has been criticised for serious failures in communication during recent water shortages in south Leitrim.
Cold weather conditions earlier this month caused a number of bursts on the supply serving the south Leitrim region. This, coupled with a higher than usual demand for water, resulted in the drainage of water reservoirs forcing the shut-off of water supplies.
By Friday, March 2, water reserves were down by nearly 20%. The situation was worsened by the fact that the pump at the Carrick-on-Shannon Water Treatment Plant automatically shut down at 4am on Saturday, March 3 and only came back online 5 hours later, leaving supply unable to meet demand.
A series of rolling water outages were introduced from Monday, March 5 in a bid to try and build up lost water reserves. This left many areas with low pressure or no water over several days. Water was later provided via tankers to the areas worst affected.
Ballinamore councillors described the frustration caused by the outages and the subsequent 'failure' of Irish Water to provide up to date information as simply unacceptable.
Cllr Brendan Barry praised the Council staff for their hard work during the problem period but said the original times given by Irish Water for the restoration of services following the shut-down of the pump in the Carrick Water Treatment Plant were unrealistic.
“We were initially told that water supply would be resumed at 5pm (on March 5) and most of us knew that was never going to happen. There simply wasn’t enough time to build up supply again,” he said.
He said he is aware of two people who contacted Irish Water on Monday, March 5 about low pressure issues and water outages and were told "this was the first that (Irish Water) had heard of this problem in South Leitrim.”
He said it appeared the impact and the extent of the water issues in South Leitrim were underestimated by Irish Water.
“It was like we were a very distant place (to Irish Water) and they (Irish Water) didn't care,” added the Sinn Féin councillor.
“There were people in Corraleehan who were left without water for over a week. That isn't good enough,” he said. “And this is an area which has seen two bursts in the last two weeks which is also affecting supply.”
Head of Finance at Leitrim County Council, Vincent Dwyer, acknowledged there was a breakdown in communication.
He said Leitrim County Council staff were in hourly contact with Irish Water during the extreme weather conditions, providing updates on the water situation.
“When it become clear there seemed to be a problem with the information being released from Irish Water we (Leitrim County Council) raised that with them,” he said.
“I spoke directly with the Service Level Agreement Water Lead on this and highlighted that things needed to be reviewed,” added Mr Dwyer.
“Things did improve as the week went on with Irish Water issuing more updates on the situation,” he added, noting that, as recently as last week, Irish Water was providing further updates on the continuing need for water conservation in the South Leitrim area. He said Irish Water was “very anxious” to improve future information releases on issues.
Cllr Barry asked the Council to contact Irish water to “express our annoyance, frustration and concern” with the lack of accurate updates and information. Cllr Caillian Ellis agreed, stating it is vital that information is up to date when we see these sort of problems in the future.