*Eddie Keane. 

UISCE ÉIREANN have come under fire for failing to meet businesses in Miltown Malbay over persistent issues to the water network in the locality.

Back to back water outages have occurred in Miltown Malbay for the past two Sundays which have also impacted on the surrounding areas of Spanish Point and Quilty. The matter has left some business owners at boiling point as they are with it another obstacle during an already challenging climate for businesses.

Owner of The Old Bakehouse, Eddie Keane outlined that water issues have been a matter for his business for the past twelve years “since the upgrading of the connection from Doolough Lake to Miltown Malbay”. They opened the restaurant twenty years ago, it employs twelve people on a year-round basis, seven of which are full-time staff.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Eddie highlighted the impact of the two most recent water outages. “I’ve had to come up with my own emergency situation so I store water, I store 200 litres of water, I’ve to dump it and change it so at least I have something to start with, I’m running a restaurant which has no bathrooms and if the environmental health happen to show on that particular day by law we should not be open and if they were to take a water sample but then nobody gets paid and the town is full of visitors with nowhere to go so we keep stum”.

He continued, “The levels of frustration are beyond belief because what is put down as emergency outages is in my opinion pre-planned work, if we were given some notice in advance perhaps we could arrange the work and prepare the food a day before, work around it in some way to provide some service to the town, trying to get hold of people with Sunday lunches who are booked and tell them they can’t come is not a runner”.

This frustration is intensified by the lack of communication. “I understand that the whole system has to be upgraded, I absolutely understand that, from Miltown to Doolough Lake I’ve driven the road and I know where it is at risk of breaking but whatever work is going on at the Lake where we can’t get access to or to speak with someone, we know what needs to be done, give us advanced notice, stop sending us a text four and a half hours after the water has been turned off, we’re a business, I’ve people who have to be sent home from work but I still have to pay them, my people are on contract here it’s not a sweatshop but without water I can’t serve the food or cook the food, we don’t have the bathroom facilities so I really don’t know where to go from here but the fact this is a blueprint Sunday after Sunday and I wonder if it will happen again and if it is pre-planned work”.

Continued water outages will kill off businesses in Miltown Malbay, he warned. “As business stands in the restaurant industry, my running costs have gone up €66,000 this year to do with wage raises, VAT, energy rises and product food cost rises, we don’t know if we will break even this year because of the extra costs but having to close this business on a Sunday in mid-season is just another hit on the nail that is going to kill us”.

Eddie was sceptical that the works were pre-planned despite Uisce Éireann insisting the outage was due to a burst water main. “I do wonder how the burst mains occur at 7am on a Sunday morning, that was last Sunday and the Sunday before, I do worry because there was an outage before on the Sunday of the Willie Clancy festival, I feel they are using Sunday on the assumption that it is when water will be least in demand but particularly in the season it is when it is most in demand”.

Officials with Uisce Éireann have made promises to meet with him, Eddie claimed. “On numerous occasions most recently six weeks ago I was promised that an engineer would come out and talk to me personally, this is having spoken with three sets of solicitors from Uisce Éireann but they have still not arrived. The people in Uisce Éireann make all the promises but not one person has shown up personally to talk to me, this has all happened in the last two years because up till then Clare County Council were dealing with it and I could talk to somebody because there was a foreman here and I could get realistic information. They have promised and promised that someone will come and speak to me but I haven’t seen them yet”.

Eddie shared his concern about the safety of the water once the supply is restored to the system following each outage. “An ice machine connected to the mains here, that is left on and it is taking in that stuff, there is black tar water coming through this, if you go to a bar here for the next week and get ice in your drink you tell me the environmental health officer will be happy with. If it is an emergency then it is an emergency and we understand if the infrastructure is broken but this is pre-planned work, if it is pre-planned then sending the text four hours after the work has started is just crazy, going online to the machine which is all you get or you get through to a young kid working from their bedroom saying contact us online. The constant arguments over the phone when they are trying to collect the bill and then they will get a debt collection business and if that is unsuccessful they will get their solicitor to send a letter, then they back away and the whole thing starts again. Not once has an engineer come to see me, the most recent time I was told an engineer would be here within a week, that was eight weeks ago”.

A spokesperson for Uisce Éireann told The Clare Echo the works were not planned in advance. “The burst on Sunday was unplanned and therefore Uisce Éireann was unable to advise customers in advance. Our crews were immediately deployed and the necessary repairs were completed by 11.30am that morning. Uisce Éireann’s dedicated operations teams work tirelessly during all incidents, 24/7 in all weathers, to minimise any impact to customers and to restore normal water supply as quickly and as safely as possible when outages occur.

“In relation to the burst to a water main on Sunday in the Miltown Malbay area, Uisce Éireann crews were immediately deployed and worked hard to restore supply to customers as quickly as possible in Miltown Malbay, Spanish Point, Quilty, Mullagh, Coore, Creegh, Cooraclare, Cahermurphy and surrounding areas in Co. Clare. Uisce Éireann’s Operations team in West Clare has confirmed that repairs to the water main were successfully completed by 11.30am on Sunday morning,” the spokesperson added and said they were not aware of any commitment to meet with business owners in Miltown Malbay.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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