By Carmel Hayes
PORTLAOISE householders are furious after water supply cut-offs were extended without notice, leaving families high and dry for more than 13 hours.
The ‘night-time’ restrictions introduced by Irish Water last Sunday were supposed to last from 10pm until 6am each night until next Sunday.
But for the past few nights, the supply in the Mountmellick Road area has been turned off at 8pm. In many cases, it has not resumed until about 9am.
The extended water cuts during a heatwave have caused a furore in the densely populated area, where hundreds of homes as far as Kyletalesha have been left without water for 13 hours or more.
Many residents say they have been forced to buy bottled water to flush toilets, after the supply was suddenly cut off two hours earlier than notified by Irish Water. They also have to shower using bottled water, as soaring temperatures reach up to 30 degrees.
Complaints have been flooding in to local councillors, with Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley describing the situation as “not acceptable”. The Portlaoise councillor has been in constant communication with Laois County Council chief executive John Mulholland and the council’s water services section over the past 24 hours, in an attempt to resolve the issue.
Cllr Dwane Stanley was informed this morning that there will be a ‘rebalancing’ of the water supply this evening, so that the restrictions will be shared with the rest of the town rather than mainly affecting the Mountmellick Road area.
In an update on her social media page at lunchtime today, cllr Dwane Stanley said: “I spoke to the CEO John Mulholland an hour ago, about the current water restrictions on the Mountmellick Road, Portlaoise. He informed me that he has spoken to a senior member of staff in Irish Water about the restrictions and the total lack of communication to the public and myself as a public representative.
“The CEO informed me that the Council made Irish Water aware some time ago that a new reservoir was needed for Portlaoise, due to growth in population and demand. He tells me funding was sought for this work but was received too late. He also informs me that the next four to five weeks will be difficult.
“The CEO expressed the need to Irish Water to rebalance the restrictions, to take into account the impact on one area only. He informed me that I was to be kept updated from the Local Authority outage portal. As soon as I get that information, I will post it so the public will be aware of the impacts for their area.”
The Sinn Féin councillor said yesterday that she had received complaints from residents on the Mountmellick Road, after Irish Water turned off the supply at 8pm without notice on both Monday and Tuesday.
She said last night: “The residents in the area affected were not notified and neither was I. I have spent most of the evening trying to get information from Irish Water and the Council. Tonight at 11.30pm I received the following notice (pictured below).”
Cllr Dwane Stanley said she intends to raise the issue at the council’s monthly meeting next Monday. She said: “It is not acceptable to leave residents with no water at all.”
In a statement today, Irish Water said: “Due to demand exceeding supply and falling water levels in the treated water levels in Portlaoise, it was necessary to impose water restrictions from Sunday 18 July until such time as the demand/supply balance changes and reservoirs can be filled.
“The disruptions were imposed in the Mountmellick Road area and were due to last from 10pm to 6am. These restrictions occurred on the night of 18th/19th July, 19th/20th July and 20th/21st July but water levels in the reservoirs were not rising sufficiently.
“It was necessary to extend the hours from 8pm to 7am in order to reduce demand further. Laois County Council followed procedures, when the decision had to be made to extend the restriction to ensure a day time supply of water for customers.
“The Irish Water website www.water.ie supply and service section was updated, outage LAO00035704 outlines the dates, the times and the areas affected. Customers are advised to keep an eye on the Irish Water website’s supply and service section for updates on their local water supplies.”
Irish Water says that customers should allow two to three hours after the estimated restoration time for their supply to return fully.
The heatwave has brought increased domestic and commercial demand, with water levels in wells supplying the Portlaoise Public Water Supply Scheme at a lower level than they were on the same date in previous years. The demand for water is currently higher than production capacity at Kilminchy water treatment plant.
To reduce the risk of disruptions to customers Irish Water says that, together with Laois County Council, it is working to bring a new well at Coolbanagher into production to provide additional water for the Kilminchy Water Treatment Plant. Works are expected to be completed at the end of August.
As levels of treated water in the reservoir have dropped, Irish Water is appealing to homeowners, farmers and business people in Portlaoise and across the county to check for leaks and to conserve water during the heatwave.