Councillors condemn Irish Water’s poor communication

Incidents of brown or orange water date to at least early June 2022, with residents of several areas including Churchfield, Gurranabraher, Sunday’s Well, Ballyvolane, the South Douglas Road, Barrack Street, Glanmire, Fairhill, Blackpool, Wilton, and Shandon, complaining of discoloured water coming from their taps.
Councillors condemn Irish Water’s poor communication

Irish Water said it could not say how many homes across the city had been affected, but said its general advice was that people should not drink discoloured water and it apologised “for any inconvenience”.

“Honesty is always the best policy” for any service provider that has a duty of care to the public, the Lord Mayor of Cork has said after Irish Water belatedly admitted it was responsible for a spate of incidents across the city involving discoloured drinking water.

Responding to a series of questions from The Echo last week, Irish Water admitted that chemicals used in the preparation of drinking water had been responsible for sediment coming loose in water mains, resulting in discoloured drinking water in multiple areas across Cork city in recent months.

Incidents of brown or orange water date to at least early June 2022, with residents of several areas including Churchfield, Gurranabraher, Sunday’s Well, Ballyvolane, the South Douglas Road, Barrack Street, Glanmire, Fairhill, Blackpool, Wilton, and Shandon, complaining of discoloured water coming from their taps.

When questioned by The Echo as to whether it had been responsible for the discolouration of drinking water, Irish Water said a recent upgrade of infrastructure in Cork City had “required an alteration of the chemistry involved in water treatment” and, as a result of that change to the chemicals being used, “the water had a tendency to cause sediment to come loose and cause discolouration in the network”.

The company said it had “altered the chemistry involved and … we have already noticed an improvement.” It added that the chemicals involved were “the standard chemicals used in water treatment around the country and across the world”.

Irish Water said it could not say how many homes across the city had been affected, but said its general advice was that people should not drink discoloured water and it apologised “for any inconvenience”.

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Fine Gael councillor Deirdre Forde, said it was not acceptable that Irish Water had waited until asked by The Echo before admitting its responsibility for the discolouration of drinking water in homes across the city.

“I would say to any organisation that has a duty of care to the public; that honesty is always the best policy, and being upfront when there may be an issue or even the perception of an issue is essential,” Cllr Forde said.

The Lord Mayor said she had made a number of enquiries following The Echo’s story and had established that Cork City Council had no role in the delivery of water quality, which was solely the responsibility of Irish Water, with oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency and the HSE.

“What I would say is if the people who are recipients of water in their homes, trying to cook and make meals and live their daily lives, if the perception is there by them that the water quality is not up to scratch, then I think Irish Water have a duty of care to address this immediately and to restore confidence,” Cllr Forde added.

 The Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Deirdre Forde at the City Hall, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
The Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Deirdre Forde at the City Hall, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Workers’ Party Cork City councillor Ted Tynan said Irish Water’s handling of the situation certainly did not inspire confidence.

“Something clearly has gone badly wrong, and why has Irish Water waited until now to admit its responsibility to the public?” Mr Tynan asked.

Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Tony Fitzgerald said the issue was of major concern, and he had received numerous calls from residents across the northside.

“I’m calling on Irish Water to make a presentation to the environment committee of Cork City Council, so I’m going to contact the director of services to see can we get a detailed report on this, to ease the minds of people across the city who have been affected by this problem,” Cllr Fitzgerald said.

“We need to have an open and frank discussion on the details of the discolouring of the water.”

Cllr Lorna Bogue of An Rabharta Glas said she was concerned about the apparent lack of transparency on the part of Irish Water in its dealings with the media and with elected representatives.

“It’s supposed to be a public utility, so it should be clear to the public about what it’s doing,” Cllr Bogue said.

Cllr Mick Nugent of Sinn Féin said some residents had experienced discoloured water for months.

“One family in Gurranabraher has been in constant contact with elected representatives and with Irish Water, and their issues are still ongoing,” Cllr Nugent said.

Irish Water has said people should not drink discoloured water and anyone experiencing discoloured water should run their taps and contact the company’s customer care team on 1800 278278.

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