Disaster nearly struck the Cashel Arts Festival over the weekend, as Irish Water failed to contact Councillors or local businesses in time regarding an impending outage, heard this month’s Tipperary Cashel Municipal District Meeting.
Cllr Michael Fitzgerald said west Co. Tipperary “nearly became another Co. Louth”, referring to an incident in Aherlow where €600,000 had to be spent replacing a cast iron water mains. The water sewer supply is now “fully compliant”, said Denis Holland, a senior Irish Water (IW) official. Some 40 households were affected, and Mr Holland said he “acknowledges the patience of the general public and apologises for any inconvenience.” Local residents are now “much safer” and there is currently no boil notice anywhere in the County.
“The whole County was nearly disrupted,” said Cllr Fitzgerald. “It seemed to go on forever.” There was “a very awkward break in Aherlow” and there were reports it would be “another Co. Louth all over again.” Cllr Fitzgerald thanked “the people who worked night and day and got down and dirty” to fix the problem. “By 12 o’clock that night, water was restored. Great credit to those people. Work went ahead without any publicity. That was a powerful job.”
Cllr Tom Wood said it would be much better if initial reports could be sent to the local branch of IW, rather than dealing with Cork. The local department of IW has the local knowledge to repair leaks speedily. Cllr Wood pointed to an incident over the weekend in Cashel: “There was a major leak in Cashel on Friday evening. We received a report about 5 past 9.” If they could have made a call earlier that Friday they could avoided “many problems”.
Cllr Roger Kennedy said the decision was made on Friday to turn off the water deliberately to “flush out” the system. “There was a total outage of water services. “When I got on to them, they (IW) told me that everybody in Cashel should have known about this because they put it up on their website at 4.45pm,” said Cllr Kennedy.
Cllr Kennedy spoke to a senior IW supervisor who said they planned the outage. “It was a very discourteous way to deal with local businesses. The only notification was on their website”. IW has a list of priority customers they text, but this does not include Councillors or many prominent businesses dealing with extra tourists for the Arts Festival.
“If Irish Water expect to have the good will of the people, they need to to respect customers,” said Cllr Kennedy. “It’s the Arts Festival weekend: we had tourists from all over Europe. Local staff came to the rescue but they had to do it in intermittent sections. They’re local people so they informed local businesses themselves.”
Posting a notice on Friday evening and expecting local people to see it on a website, was a “ridiculous” way to conduct business, added Cllr Kennedy.
Cllr Martin Browne agreed, saying he did not get any notification, and was involved in a workshop on Friday at 5pm “only to discover there was no water for the whole weekend.” “There's a lack of respect. I cannot understand why Irish Water cannot send out a text. We all use social media, but to put it up at 10 minutes before (5pm)... is unbelieveable. There's no reason why an alert cannot be sent out. We ourselves will know what's happening.”
Irish Water “would have all our emails,” added Cllr Roger Kennedy.