By Dan Walsh
The Chief Executive Officer of Wexford County Council, Tom Enright, has apologised to the people of Gorey for failures that caused unsafe water to enter the public water supply at Creagh Water Plant in Gorey and has promised “to support a full investigation with Irish Water and the HSE to see what happened and to put measures in place to ensure nothing like this happens again.”
Mr Enright was addressing members at the monthly meeting of Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District Council held at County Council Headquarters, Carricklawn, Wexford, on Tuesday. Cllr Pip Breen, Cathaoirleach, was in the chair.
Mr Enright admitted that there was “unacceptable delays in finding out what was happening”, however, he concluded that “all testing shows no further issues” and gave an assurance to members that “in the last few weeks the water is fit to drink.”
Eamonn Hore, Senior Engineer in Water Services, gave a detailed account of happenings at the plant during this time, and while admitting “a serious water incident occurred” he said a full review of settings and repairs were carried out and Irish Water issued a statement stating that “the issues had been resolved and the water quality is now compliant and there are no further health concerns.”
Mr Hore said the failures occurred on August 19th to August 24th, and was first reported on August 26th. “Nothing like this has every occurred in Wexford’s water supply” and he said ‘sorry’ to the people of Gorey.
Many issues relating to the incident and the operation of the Creagh Water Plant were also directed to Fionnuala Callery, Senior Engineer.
Cllr Joe Sullivan asked about testing prior to August 26th, questioned the absence of a power outage back-up system, and he said it was important to have “a transparent thorough investigation to find out where the problems were and to make sure it never happens again.”
Cllr Andrew Bolger queried the timeline. “When the elected members were made aware or why members were not made aware?” He suggested that the HSE be asked for consent from the fifty-two people who became ill to open dialogue with them. He also suggested that the water services are Victorian and this incident be used to leverage investment and upgrading of the system.
Mr Hore assured Cllr Bolger and the members that “the investigation will be thorough and factual and everything will be out in the open.”
Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabhain believed far more than 52 people suffered an illness. He was relieved that systems are now in place and described the event as “a catastrophe due to human error.”
Cllr Mary Farrell thanked the officials for a comprehensive report and felt there was “no point in blaming anyone at this stage.”
Cllr Anthony Donohoe described the event as “an awful incident” when everything went wrong at the same time. He said two staff were out on stress leave and was critical of comments on social media.
Cllr Donal Kenny told the meeting that Gorey is growing bigger than any town in Leinster and he is hoping that the Council will go for more funding for the overhaul of the system.
Cllr Willie Kavanagh supported the officials and called for a back-up power supply. Cllr Oliver Walsh said it was “a serious unfortunate incident” and left the team at Wexford County Council and Irish Water had a service agreement. He did not want to see “staff left hung out to dry and should not be vilified on social media.” He added that this was an opportunity for the Council to get more investment in Gorey.
Cllr Joe Sullivan rejected the “blame game”, but he stated that people were angry, very sick and lost time off work and it is an issue for Irish Water and Wexford County Council to repay. He believed that the matter went back further than August 19th and he would like to see it included as part of the investigation.
Summing up, Cathaoirleach Cllr Pip Breen said the incident came as “a great shock to the town (Gorey) and he lamented that the ‘Boil Water” notices didn’t go out, but concluded that “a lesson has been learned countrywide.”