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Water, Water Everywhere... Ashbourne's Water Crisis

Posted 12 Feb. 2014

On Wednesday 12th of February at 8pm – despite the hazardous weather conditions – roughly 70 people attended a meeting in the Residents Hotel in Ashbourne, to discuss the current water quality crisis. At this meeting, representatives from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and Independent gathered with concerned Ashbourne residents to address issues regarding the poor quality water supply that has been affecting many areas of the town. The general consensus was that people are not willing to pay the incoming water charges based on the quality of the water presently being received.

I have lived in Ashbourne all of my life and I can honestly say that there have been problems with the water for the past thirty-six years and probably more. There is a definitive taste, discolouration, chlorine smell and general hardness to the water that having been negatively impacting on today’s residents. Tests carried out by AquaChem on the 11th of February revealed that not only is Ashbourne’s water extremely hard, very high levels of iron were detected, contributing to the discolouration.

Ashbourne receives its water from the river Boyne, which goes through a treatment plant in Staleen. The supply pipes from Staleen to Ashbourne are outdated and facility was due to be upgraded in 2007. It was in the program for government 2009-2012, but successive governments over the years have essentially ignored the water crisis in Ashbourne and East Meath. Therefore, it is vital that the plant is improved as soon as possible in order to improve the overall quality of our water supply.

So, what are the solutions?

Firstly, steps can be taken at home to tackle the issue of water hardness. While hard water is not hazardous to human health, the installation of water softeners into homes should help to ease the disadvantages and costs associated with water hardness. Water softeners cost €3 per week to run, post installation. Investing in one should be highly beneficial to dishwashers, kettles and washing machines etc, that often need to be repaired or replaced due to lime scale damage.

Secondly, Ashbourne’s water quality problem must be flagged at government level; TDs need to raise the issue with the Department of Environment. We need to ensure that Irish Water are aware of the situation and we also require a definite commitment from them that the Staleen water treatment plant is on their agenda to be upgraded as the water charges come into effect. The government’s plan is to spend €600 million a year on water, which has never been done before. This money will go towards improving these treatment plants which will ultimately rectify the water quality problem in Ashbourne.

In the meantime, Meath County Council have committed to flushing out pipe work in certain areas of the town that have been particularly affected by poor water quality. During the upcoming installation of water metres into Ashbourne, residents should expect some temporary water discolouration due to the disturbance of underground pipe work. A pumping station is also being considered to increase the water pressure in certain residential areas of Ashbourne that have been experiencing shortages.

I assure you that I will fight to solve this water crisis; not just as a political representative, but as an Ashbourne resident who has also lived with poor water quality problems over the years. If you have a concern about the water charges, or indeed any concerns at all, I hold a walk-in clinic in Regina Doherty’s office on Frederick Street, (Main Street) Ashbourne, on Tuesday evenings from 7pm-9pm. Do not suffer in silence, drop in for a chat.