Manganese reacting with the iron in the cast iron pipes is causing the discolouration of water in Dundalk and surrounding areas, councillors heard at the Louth County Council June meeting.
Several councillors spoke on the issue at the monthly meeting, telling members that it was an issue, not just in the town of Dundalk, but also in surrounding areas in north Louth.
There were calls at the meeting for representatives from Irish Water to be called in to speak to councillors on the matter, either to a county meeting or to a municipal meeting.
Cllr Maeve Yore was first to raise the matter, saying that the public had raised it with her, and that she shared their concerns about the quality and safety of the drinking water in the town.
She said that there was “serious discolouration” of the drinking water from “Cluan Enda to Red Barns Road and out to the 'Rock,” with no improvement.
She said that she was aware that flushing was in operation and people have “reported and reported and reported” the issue, but action was needed.
Cllr John Reilly said he wanted to comment on “the amount of complaints that I received last weekend about the water in the north end of the town”, listing off areas including Newtownbalregan, Ard Easmuinn and the Mount Avenue area.
He questioned if there was a problem at the Cavanhill treatment plant, saying the water is a “terrible brown colour” and asked if it was caused by chemicals in the water.
Cllr John Sheridan also spoke on the matter, telling the meeting that last month he had also raised the issue of discoloured water.
He told the meeting that his understanding was that flushing “needs to be year round” and that “this is an inevitable problem if flushing isn't being carried out over the course of the year.”
Cllr Sheridan also said that it was as big an issue in rural areas as it was in Dundalk, listing off Castlebellingham, Dromiskin, Darver, Louth Village, Knockbridge and Tallanstown as areas where it was happening.
In response, Director of Services, Bernie Woods, told the meeting that “we have an issue with manganese levels in the water and it is reacting with the iron in the cast iron pipes and that's what's causing the discolouration”.
She went on to say that Irish Water are carrying out testing at the Cavanhill plant to try and solve the problem and have cleaned down the four water reservoirs serving the area.
Irish Water are also looking at the chemical balance and what's going into the system, she added.
Ms Woods went on to say that “it could be a bigger problem during the summer months when it is warmer and that's why the flushing programme is only starting now.
The flushing will continue until the complete network is flushed but it starts in the areas that we have identified first at the moment because they are the areas of higher concern.”
The Director of Services added that Louth County Council would be taking the plant back under its control the following week and that they will “have more hands on at that stage”.
She recognised however, that the issue is there and they are trying to deal with it as best they can and asked that for people who are experiencing the discoloured water, to ensure they log it on the Irish Water website.
Ms Woods also told the meeting that they have asked for replacement pipes to be added to the capital programme.
Cllr Kevin Meenan also spoke on the matter, saying that he wanted to echo the sentiments of what was being said and that he was led to believe that flushing was supposed to solve the issue.
He put forward that representatives from Irish Water should be invited in to speak with members on the issues so they could get more answers from them.
Cllr Meenan added that the issue wasn't solely to do with discoluration.
He said that in Annagassan, when dilutable orange was added to the water, “you get a head on it like a pint of guinness”.
He added that he tried it with bottled water and it doesn't happen.
“I would have no confidence in drinking the water and don't drink the water. I drink bottled water the whole time.
“We have to look at them coming in here or to the municipal meeting”, he commented.
Cllr Edel Corrigan commented that she would ask also that “when they do come, not if they do come”, that they would give an explanation as to the type of testing and monitoring that is carried out on the water safety and the quality.
She questioned what kind of communication plan is in place to notify people of the quality of the water and “that it is safe to drink, or to bathe or to wash clothes and so on”, adding “so the public can have confidence that it is safe”.
She echoed comments from Cllr Meenan saying that “we've been here before. We've had these issues before”.
Cllr Corrigan said that they were led to believe that the issues were something that was being dealt with at that time, adding, “it's extremely dissapointing to see that we're back at this place again because who's to say we're not going to be here again next year.”
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