Leaks and running taps cause water chaos
Leaks on private property and running taps were responsible for water shortages in the part of Donegal most badly affected during the severe weather, a senior Donegal water engineer has said.
Donegal County Council says only 3 to 4 per cent of the water lost in the Stranolar electoral area was lost due to breaks in mains water pipes.
The Finn Valley suffered serious water problems during the severe weather in December. Water supplies turned off at night to preserve stocks.
Area manager for water and environment services, Michael Breslin, told the Stranorlar electoral area committee that the Lough Mourne supply scheme - which supplies water to the Finn Valley - only had eight mains bursts from December 25th to January 10th. This was compared to more than 227 repairs
or turn-offs to private connections carried out by council staff during the period. Each leaking water connection or running tap uses 20 cubic metres of water per day - enough to supply between 50 and 100 households for one day, he said.
"The problem was people running taps and leaking connections in houses and buildings and farm troughs," he said.
Council staff walked the network and checked private pipes for leaks, something that should have been done by consumers, he said.
Mr. Breslin said the council received calls from people "giving out hell". "People had frozen connections, that was the reason they had no water, it was not because of the council," he said.
Many of the leaks on private connections were caused by pipes that were not buried deeply enough. Mr. Breslin told councillors that a telemetry system installed by the council had proved invaluable in identifying leaks on the water network.
All the councillors at the meeting thanked the council staff for their work over the Christmas period.
Reacting to the presentation by Mr. Breslin, Cllr. Frank McBreaty said he accepted some of what had been said but not everything. "Rate payers in the Stranorlar electoral area are not getting value for money. They are expected to pay rates but they have had no water over the busiest time
of year," he said.
Councillor Patrick McGowan said the area had suffered severe problems for the second year in a row and most of the problems seemed to be with the network.
"If we are going to produce more water we need to get the network done," he said. "The Finn Valley seems to be the most badly affected area," he added.
Cllr. Martin Harley said it is very important the message goes out to the public about the problems with running taps. "The council can only do so much and the people need to work with them."
Cllr. Gerry Crawford said that while most the leaks were on private connections, the amount of confusion among the public could not be underestimated. "People did not know if there was a leak or if the pipe was frozen," he said.
Councillors also criticised the councils' emergency call centre which all the councillors agreed had failed to meet the demands of members of the public. The emergency line service operates from a call centre in Cork. Mayor Cllr. Cora Harvey said described the emergency line as a "disaster".
Cllr. Crawford said the situation that happened with the emergency line last year should not have happened again. "Information is a large part of the problem," he said.
Cllr. McBreaty said the council is responsible for the emergency call service and one of the problems was the people on the other end of the line could not understand "the Donegal dialogue".
Councillors agreed that they would bring forward proposals that the council would run its own emergency line using council staff from different directorates.