Donegal County Council say replacement of a significant part of the water main from Ballybofey to Lifford would address the drinking water problems in the area, but the work is subject to the availability of national funding.
A local councillor said the funding has to be made available to the council resolve the problem.
“The problem was highlighted in the last couple of days but it didn’t just arise now,” Fianna Fáil Cllr. Gerry Crawford said. He said it was on the council programme for pipe replacement, “but at the end of the day any programme depends on funding”.
Residents of Clonleigh Park, Croghan Heights and Castlefin Road have gone public this week with their complaints about the discoloured drinking water coming from their taps. One woman said her family has been regularly left without clean drinking water for the past six years.
A county council spokesperson said the council was aware of the water quality issue arising in the area.
“Whilst the source water in question is very good, the nature of the pipeline between Ballybofey and Lifford is the main cause of water discolouration in some areas when bursts are experienced,” the spokesperson said. “Council staff are continuously managing the network to ensure constant supply to the public and are continuously scouring the pipelines to protect water quality.” Upgrade of the supply pipeline is needed to maintain water quality and to ensure continuity of supply, the spokesperson said.
Following a countywide survey of the mains network, the council has proposed replacing a significant element of the main between Ballybofey and Lifford, though this is subject to national funding being made available, the council spokesperson said.
“This would bring about the necessary improvements that would enable the council to guarantee a continuous quality service to the area,” the spokesperson said.
Cllr. Crawford said these issues are part of a bigger area picture. He said the Porthall water line was addressed “after years of representations and up to 21 bursts a year”.
Speaking on Monday at the Stranorlar Electoral Area meeting, Cllr. Crawford said the progress on the Porthall line is making a big difference to the people of that area. But he said there was “serious concern in the Lifford area about the quality of the water there, and total frustration about what the outcome may be as regards rectifying it”, calling it “a nightmare these people are going through”.
The councillor said his understanding was that because of ongoing water works, when water is turned back on after works are finished, sediment can be loosened and cause discolouration.
“There’s something wrong when expensive, clean water comes into a pipe and comes out unusable,” Cllr. Crawford said. He said the issue represented a waste of resources as well as hardship and difficulties for the area residents.
Fianna Fáil Cllr. Patrick McGowan said, “The water in the pipes is clean; it’s ironic that the water coming from the taps is dirty.” He credited council staff with “tremendous work” on pipe replacement, but questioned whether the coming national authority, Water Ireland, would direct the necessary resources to rural water systems.
“It’s representations at national level and continued representations that gets the programme noticed and highlights the difficulties caused by lack of funding,” Cllr. Crawford said. He said in the meantime it was important that the council carry out every remedy possible to alleviate the problem.
“It has been going on for years but seems to be more widespread and frequent now,” he said. “It is unacceptable that the council produces fit drinking water that is not fit for consumption when it reaches the consumer.”
Cllr. Crawford said the council also needed to give the public assurances that the water did not present a health risk.
“We need to show the council has the groundwork done for this and if the fault is funding, then the fault goes to where it belongs, and that’s the national level,” the councillor said. “Because we can’t solve it if the money isn’t there.”