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Fine Gael TD for Cork East Constituency, David Stanton, has called for increased engagement on the issue of the ongoing boil water notice on the Whitegate Public Water Supply in East Cork and the possibility of affected households being compensated for associated costs.

The Whitegate Public Water Supply which covers some 9,500 people in the areas of Whitegate, Aghada, Cloyne, Saleen, Ballinacurra and parts of Midleton, has had an intermittent boil water notice in place since January 2016. Turbidity issues with the water supply, particularly after instances of heavy rainfall, have seen the water become unsuitable for consumption with notices remaining in place for several months at a time.

Raising the matter in the Dáíl chamber, Deputy Stanton said: “The most recent boil water notice was issued on 29 October 2022 and remains in place two months later. This means people either have to boil water, at alarming cost, or else bear the cost of purchasing water in plastic bottles, which adds to the overuse of single-use plastic, which we are all trying to avoid. Irish Water confirmed it was examining tankering water into the area, although I have not seen that happen yet. This water will still have to be boiled for use, so there is little advantage.

“To be fair to Irish Water, as far back as October 2016 it put in a new filtration system with two microfiltration units, and a UV disinfection unit has been installed at a cost of over €1 million. New shuttering controls were also put in place to prevent any inadequately treated water from entering the water supply. However, the fact that quite a number of boil water notices have issued since 2016 indicates the spending of that €1 million has not worked.

“The most recent information from the Irish Water website talks about further works taking place involving the major upgrade of the water treatment plant, for which land has been acquired, and a contractor has been appointed to undertake design and construction. However, full planning permission will be required, and the project is currently at detailed design phase. Irish Water is targeting early 2023 for the submission of planning and is anticipating the construction might commence in 2024, so, all going well, we might have a solution by 2025, if we are lucky.

“Irish Water told me that despite the cost involved to families, there is no way that it is allowed to compensate families, although businesses are entitled to a discount on bills which is applied automatically. Really and truly, we should look at some way of compensating families. Another issue that has arisen recently is the notification that Irish Water gives to households. I contend that, at the very least, posters, like those we use at election time, should be erected in the geographical areas affected. It is not good enough to rely on newspapers and social media to alert people.

Calling on the Minister for Housing to act in four areas, David Stanton said: “First, he needs to deal with the costs to householders. The Minister knows it costs almost €1.30 to purchase 5 litres of water and almost 10 cent each time a full kettle of water is boiled. We can imagine how much people would use in a day for drinking.

“Second, I want the Minister to direct Irish Water to ensure people are reminded on a regular basis of the boil water notice, and these updates should preferably include the erecting of posters in the area concerned.

“Third, I want the Minister to engage with Irish Water to see if anything can be done to have the problem rectified before the end of 2025.

“Fourth, other public representatives, such as councillors in the area, would like to engage with Irish Water. Irish Water should present itself to the local municipal district meetings and explain to the councillors exactly what is going on and what it plans to do to rectify the situation”.