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Criticism with the “layers of bureaucracy” in Irish Water have been voiced by North-West Clare councillors, while it has been confirmed that the proposed replacement of the old watermain from Miltown Malbay to Mullagh will commence during the first quarter of 2021.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that Healy Rae Plant Hire (HRPH) had been appointed to carry out the works, the First Phase (Site Investigation) of which has already been completed. The works will commence in early 2021 “subject to funding”.

In the final quarter of 2020, watermain replacement projects will also be completed at Mains St in Scariff, the Castlecrine to Kilmurry watermain, 2.5km of watermain at Milltown Road in Tulla, and the watermain in Parnell St, Ennis.

Irish Water in written correspondence to elected representatives of the West Clare Municipal District attributed the water problems in Miltown Malbay in recent weeks to “the age and poor condition of the water mains”. It stated that the utility body had no “direct remit” regarding private group water schemes.

A taking in Charge of the four group water schemes has commenced, both Irish Water and Clare County Council are to advance this process. Tender documents for the construction of a new reservoir for Rockmount will be issued to market in the next three to four weeks with construction to begin in 2021.

Before works are completed, the restoring of water “will be a continuous problem”, Director of Service with Clare County Council, Leonard Cleary cautioned.

Speaking at a special meeting of the West Clare Municipal District, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) was concerned that the works may not proceed. “Subject to funding is a problem because the problem is the funding. I could say we could send someone from Co Clare to the moon in 2021 subject to funding and that wouldn’t be a lie”.

Recent outages have caused fear and problems in the farming community, Killeen said. “Imagine walking into a shed of animals and the water isn’t working, that causes an immediate concern and is a problem that is very difficult to get around”. Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) questioned if the outages were a seasonal problem.

Water problems in Miltown Malbay pre-dated the current Council, Cllr Shane Talty (FF) maintained. He believed the correspondence from Irish Water “gets us to a point that we are trying to push towards” and called for group water schemes to collaborate and co-operate. “For the businesses in the town, periodic and sporadic outages are a hardship in themselves”.

Levels of bureaucracy within various bodies was criticised by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG). “There is a fantasy that has been created and a layer of bureaucracy to the solutions of these fantasy”. He highlighted the lesson to communities and the country going forward is to remove red tape. “Everybody talks about the great collective response we’ve had, we will have to start doing things differently and remove the barriers, we have to remove all the nonsense and bureaucracy”.

Kilrush representative, Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) called for the removal of group water schemes and said the public don’t understand they are just for their own area. “The focus is on Miltown Malbay but it compounds the issue we have with Irish Water as a utility. Group water schemes are common across the country. The day of the group scheme is gone, it was a great channel once”. He believed the current pandemic offered a “chance to stop group water schemes being ran by people with no experience”.

A referendum on paying for water is required according to Cllr Roisin Garvey (GP). She stressed that water was a human right and that it was unfair the Council received criticism of the water outages in Miltown. She suggested a meeting of group water scheme leaders be held and referred to the Inagh/Kilmaley scheme “which is one of the biggest schemes in Europe” as one that has had little issues up until recent months. She described the water system in Co Clare and the entire country as “brutal”.

Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) confessed to being baffled with “the layers of bureaucracy”. He stated, “It shows what can happen when nine county councillors put their head down along with four national representatives and start digging in their heels and not accepting the bog standard response. The same levels of ignoring bureaucracy are needed”.

Director of Service with the Council, Carmel Kirby committed to following up with the Head of Asset Strategy in Irish Water “to make sure they prioritise this piece of work”. She acknowledged that the ongoing problem in Miltown Malbay was “exasperated during the crisis”.

Senior engineer with the Council’s water department, Cyril Feeney confirmed that Irish Water were invited to the meeting but were unable to send a representative. He admitted, “The main is passed its useful life span and needs to be replaced” and defended the “fantastic work through the decades” of group water schemes. “Necessary funding” for group schemes has been made available, Feeney outlined.

Future works “will not be without pain,” he flagged and said mains would have to be turned off when valves and fittings are being replaced. The engineer noted that a taking in charge was the “ultimate aim” so that they would form part of the public network. He was of the understanding that Irish Water have decided to decommission the Rockmount plant.

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