Dublin faces water rationing after serious treatment plant problem

Nov. 1, 2013 at 12:03 AM
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DUBLIN, Ireland, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Homes and businesses in Dublin, Ireland, faced rationed drinking water supplies this week due to a serious problem at a major water treatment plant.

Dublin's four local water authorities issued a joint statement Tuesday night imposing restrictions that will result in lower water pressure and the likely loss of supply until at least Monday, the Irish Times reported.

Under the restrictions, many Dubliners, as well as others in counties Kildare and Wicklow, will have no water between 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. until at least Monday, Dublin City Council engineer Michael Phillips said.

Phillips said he hoped the restrictions could be lifted after Monday, but he warned supply disruptions could go on longer as engineers searched for the cause of the problem at the Ballymore Eustace water treatment plant in County Kildare last weekend.

Engineers found particulate matter wasn't being filtered out as needed at the plant -- Ireland's largest treatment facility -- causing water supplies to become cloudy.

The rationing was imposed to allow supplies of treated drinking water to return to normal levels after the problems caused a significant reduction in water production, the newspaper reported.

Phillips told Irish broadcaster RTE the cause of the problem was not known but the quality of Dublin's drinking water remained unaffected.

"The characteristics of water change from season to season, they normally operate within a certain band. We haven't experienced this, in this plant, over the past 20 years.

"So whether it's due to the weather or the climate we do not know."

The situation has caused embarrassment for the city as it hosts 10,000 visitors for the worldwide Web Summit, a gathering of some of the world's leading high-tech company founders, investors, start-ups and firms at more than 60 events organized across the city.

Irish hotel and restaurant owners said the water rationing will deal a harsh blow to their businesses during the event.

"We pay the highest water charges and rates in Europe and we turn out to be a third-world country without an adequate water supply," Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, said in a statement to the Evening Herald. "The problem is the water is being turned off at 8 p.m. If it was later we could provide more of a service. This has to stop. We have delegates in Ireland tonight from all over the world and we're talking about no water in the country. It's an embarrassment."

Financially strapped Ireland isn't able to afford the estimated $825 million per year needed to repair and update its aging and leaky water system, which currently is operated by 34 city and county councils.

Beginning Jan. 1, the local systems will be nationalized under a new quasi-public body called Irish Water, which is for the first time introducing individual water meters to homes and businesses across the country so users can be charged based on how much water they use.

The government says that will enable Ireland to leverage third-party funding to make necessary repairs.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin told the Irish Times that Irish Water would be established Jan. 1 "with a very significant capital budget to ensure there is adequate water supply."

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