Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (1200)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

1200. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Irish Water and Fingal County Council failed to implement the main recommendations of a previous EPA audit of the Leixlip water treatment plant in March 2019, particularly relating to the failure to install automatic shutdown when critical plant alarms are not responded to; and if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that this was a contributory factor to the recent incident which resulted in a boil water notice being enforced for over 600,000 consumers. [45580/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Leixlip water treatment plant is publicly operated by Fingal County Council through a Service Level Agreement with Irish Water. The EPA report of the audit of the recent incident at the plant, published on 30 October, found that the recommendations of the EPA's previous audit of the plant in March 2019 were not implemented. The audit noted that, in particular, the failure to install automatic shutdown when critical plant alarms are not responded to, was a contributory factor to the incident on 21 October which resulted in a Boil Water Notice for over 600,00 consumers supplied by the plant.

I am extremely concerned that the lessons and corrective actions required following the audit in March were not fully implemented. I have spoken directly with the Managing Director of Irish Water, the CEO of Fingal County Council, and the Director General of the EPA to better understand how this situation arose and ensure it does not arise again.

In view of the scale and impact of the boil water notice and in the public interest, I have also asked the EPA to report to me directly on the conclusions of the EPA investigations and any findings which may require a broader policy response. This report will include the EPA’s view on the causes of the incident; if and how it could have been prevented; and its view on the response of Irish Water and of Fingal County Council.

I will be meeting with the Managing Director of Irish Water and the CEO of Fingal County Council once I have received this report. In the meantime, Irish Water and the Council must now respond to the EPA recommendations from the audit report arising from this latest incident.

It important to note that once the problem at the water treatment plant was identified, the fault was quickly resolved. Since the incident, Irish Water and Fingal County Council have implemented automatic plant shutdown on high turbidity in clarified and filtered water and if there is a failure to respond to a turbidity alarm within 15 minutes.

Irish Water must now work closely with Fingal County Council to ensure there is no repeat of this type of incident.