Boil notices for water have just ended for over 600,00 people in Dublin. But it is already clear that similar notices are likely to be imposed again.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the country sewerage from 77,000 people is flowing into our environment every day, sometimes contaminating the water supply. Towns affected include Kilmore Quay, Arklow and Cobh.
Water treatment plants in Ireland are simply not up standard, as a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency indicates.
21 cities including the largest two, Dublin and Cork, have water treatment facilities that are not up to EU standards.
Fine Gael are trying to blame this situation on the refusal of people to pay water charges. If you don’t pay for water, they claim, you will get a poor quality.
In reality, the problem stems from decades of under-investment. This was a deliberate state policy as they were preparing to follow the British model and turn water services over to private companies.
This strategy is seen in figures produced by Irish Water itself. Between 2004 and 2009, the average spend on capital investment was €423 million. But this then dropped to €382 million between 2010 and 2013.
To make matters worse, Irish Water was set up as a Public Utility Model, with the expectation that 51 percent of its funding was to come from private finances. It embarked on a major programme of metering, wasting a staggering €1 billion in installing these devices. It should instead have been investing in the water infrastructure, closing off the leaks that accounted for 40% of water loss and improving the water treatment plants.
The result today is a totally inadequate water service. In the case of Leixlip, for example, there has been some upgrading of the water treatment in one part of the plant. But the older part is extracting water from the River Liffey and its filter systems are inadequate. Any bad weather of ‘turbulence’ can cause organic matter to be washed into the plant – causing boil water notices.
Irish Water services require a major investment to improve quality. We already pay for this through high taxes on PAYE workers. It is time we were gauranteed drinkable water all year round.