Apology for making 46 Gorey people sick!

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By Dan Walsh at Gorey Kilmuckridge Council meeting

The detailed report on the Creagh Water Quality incident at Creagh Water Treatment Plant, near Gorey, last August, was published and presented at the monthly meeting of Gorey Kilmuckridge Municipal District Council yesterday (Tuesday) where Jim Fitzgerald apologised on behalf of Irish Water “for making 46 people sick” but acknowledged that “huge lessons have been learned from the Creagh incident”.

A statement issued on Tuesday evening read: “Wexford County Council again wishes to most sincerely apologise to all those people affected by this incident.”

Cllr Pip Breen thanked the authors of the report and said; “We are very lucky there were no casualties” and he was happy that the recommendations were either completed or in progress.

Cllr Joe Sullivan complimented Minister Darragh O’Brien for his quick action and credited him with taking a serious look at the 46 people who were impacted.

Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabhain queried the ‘overuse’ of chlorine in the water and asked why rivers and lakes are not checked for quality of the water? However, Cllr Ó Súilleabhain was told that the chlorine input was controlled nationally and the HSE were responsible for any infections arising from water content!

Cllr Diarmuid Devereux described the report as “very detailed, very honest, frank and held nothing back” and he indicated that he is satisfied that it will not happen again. “There has been a lot of checks and balances and I am happy that it will not happen again,” he concluded.

Cllr Andrew Bolger said communication is the key for a quick response maintenance and it was very positive, and he now had confidence in the Gorey water supply. Cllr Joe Sullivan also expressed “confidence in the safety of the Gorey water supply.”

Irish Water was represented at the meeting by Jim Fitzgerald, Regional Manager, Richard Ó hEadhra, Regional Communications and P.J. Rudden of Angus Consulting Ltd who compiled the report. Fionnuala Callery, Senior Engineer, and Eamon Hore, Director of Service with responsibility for water and roads at Wexford County Council were also in attendance and Mr. Hore outlined the details contained in the report and answered members questions.

The Report is the outcome of a comprehensive examination conducted over several months by P.J. Rudden of Aengus Consulting Ltd who was commissioned by Wexford County Council to examine all the circumstances that led to the water quality incident in Gorey in August 2021.

The report sets out in great detail the facts and causes of the incident, examining everything from the site alarm systems, the frequency of plant servicing, standard operating procedures, staffing on site, communication problems, to the Service Level Agreement between Wexford County Council and Irish Water. Irish Water is the national water utility company which is responsible for the operation of all public water and wastewater services including Creagh Water Treatment Plant, which is operated under a Service Level Agreement by Wexford County Council.

A day-by-day incident outline and the sequence of events which led to the serious water quality incident are also systematically chronicled and investigated.

The comprehensive report carried out by Aengus Consulting Ltd highlighted deficiencies in a number of areas including equipment and operation of the Water Treatment Plant and human error. The report has formed the basis of a comprehensive way forward by Wexford County Council and Irish Water to carry out the required improvements at the plant which will guarantee that such a serious incident will not transpire again.

The water quality incident arose from a power failure at the plant during the late evening of Thursday 19th August last. The chlorine dosing pumps failed as a result of the power outage. The impact of the power failure was compounded by human error and a lack of supervisory oversight that allowed water, without the appropriate level of disinfection to enter the public water supply at Gorey for a period of 4 days from 19th to the 23rd of August 2021. The HSE subsequently reported that the number of people who fell ill from the water incident was 46, all of whom attended their GPs, and one person was eventually hospitalised.

Further issues highlighted by the report were the requirement for ongoing training by plant operators to take account of changes in treatment processes and the limited compliance with Irish Water Standard Operational Procedures.

The report goes onto outline 13 separate recommendations to ensure that there is no recurrence of the Creagh incident. The recommendations include the provision of an alarm system for power failure, a standby generator to guard against any future power failure, a return to quarterly specialist maintenance of mechanical equipment, changes to the remote monitoring system (SCADA), a review of staffing and duties at the plant, implementation of automatic plant shutdown in response to water quality issues, an upgrade of the chlorine dosing system, replacement and servicing of the sand and filtration system, the full implementation of Irish Water Standard Operation Procedures, an audit of all treatment plants in the county and a review of incident management. All these recommendations have been taken on board and are being addressed by Wexford County Council and Irish Water and many have already been put in place.

Since the incident last year €200,000 has been invested by Irish Water in upgrading the plant at Creagh with another €2 million committed to fund further agreed planned upgrades already underway. Staffing changes and a reorganisation of duties have also been carried out in line with the recommendations of the report

“Wexford County Council is fully satisfied that the works already carried out and the further upgrades committed to by Irish Water will ensure that there will be no repetition of this Water Quality failure at the Creagh Plant,” said a statement from Wexford Council that concluded; “Wexford County Council again wishes to most sincerely apologise to all those people affected by this incident.”

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