THREE children had to go to Portlaoise hospital with severe infections after drinking contaminated tap water in a housing estate, according to local councillors.
The shocking update was given to a council meeting amid growing concern over poor water quality at the Killenard Lodge housing development.
The 28-house estate has been on a ‘boil water’ notice for years, with ongoing tests occasionally showing the presence of bacteria that include coliforms and E coli. Now councillors say that children in the estate recently suffered infections so serious that they had to go to hospital.
Cllr Tom Mulhall raised the issue at the latest Graiguecullen-Portarlington district meeting. He said: “Three children were brought to Portlaoise hospital as a result of sickness due to the water quality. It is contaminated. We can provide proof from the residents that the children had to go to hospital.”
Cllr Mulhall said residents are “frustrated and disgusted” and are prepared to take protest action after battling to get a clean water supply for many years.
The Emo councillor was supported by cllr Aidan Mullins, who said the sick children involved were treated for E coli infections and their families blamed the estate’s water supply.
E coli infections can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and vomiting. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to become seriously ill.
Since Killenard Lodge was completed in 2004, the water source has come from a private well. Despite years of water quality issues, the upmarket Celtic Tiger-era estate is still not connected to the public mains, due to a long-running disagreement between the developer and Irish Water over who should pay the connection fee. The estate cannot be taken in charge by Laois County Council until it is connected to the public mains.
In a written response to cllr Mulhall, council planning official Pat Delaney said he understood the developer was to apply to Irish Water to connect to the public mains. Mr Delaney said: “To date, this has not been done. There are also outstanding development charges due. When these items have been satisfied, the estate can be considered for taking in charge.”
However, cllr Mulhall said the council response was “rubbish”, as he knew that developer Joe Byrne of BPI Investments applied to Irish Water long ago for connection to the public mains. The developer got permission from Irish Water for the connection, but there was a fee for each house.
Cllr Mulhall said the county council should “step up to the plate” at this stage and use public money to pay the connection fee, particularly in view of potential health risks.
He pointed out that clean public water flows through pipes just metres away from the estate and the developer is prepared to match the connection cost with the council. He said: “The residents paid big money for their houses and they are hard-working people who pay their property tax every year. To live with a boil water notice in this day and age is not on.”
Cllr Mullins agreed that the developer did all he could and applied for full connection to the water supply a year ago but the council’s water services section didn’t even seem to be aware of that. It seemed there was a lack of communication and he felt council water services must contact the developer to get this over the line.
Cllr Mullins added: “Residents are sick and tired of operating under boil water notices. The head of (county council) water services lives only 200 metres away from this estate, so everyone is aware of it.”
Cllr Aisling Moran felt the developer should pay the connection cost, as he “made big money” from the estate and it was up to him to make sure there was a safe water supply.
Describing the situation as crazy, cathaoirleach cllr Paschal McEvoy said that the council’s water services senior engineer Michael O’Hora needed to get involved at this stage, as there seemed to be “a huge mix-up” over the water connection issue.
An update is expected to be given to an upcoming district council meeting. Councillors agreed that the estate is very well-finished and the water supply is the only outstanding issue.