Review of the Galway water scandal and analysis of the reasons

Date:

A story about how a Government who could see the winning line suddenly got side tracked by the issue of poisoning the very people they were hoping would elect them again.

Galway city has grown by over a quarter since 1996. Its major source of water is the big lake, Lough Corrib North of the city. This is the same water source which deals with sewage from two plants, and has its water treated by a plant which was built in the 1940’s. The planners and the gombeens at the Ministry for the Environment do not appear to be aware of the dangers of that old saying ‘don’t shit where you eat’.

Effectively what the authorities are doing is running down services, making you aware at the same time that it is a resource that we cannot take for granted anymore, and then they will attempt to privatise it. That is a ruthless pursuit of the neo-liberal agenda, which is what politicians appear to favor.

With Dick it is not just the water that will make you sick

In the same way that Leninists will forsake anyone and anything in order to get people into the ‘party’, the Fianna Fail party will do the same in order to maintain their grip on power. So it should come as little surprise that Charles McCreevy five years ago came up with the brainchild of taking some heat out of the economy by giving tax payers their money back if they would save for those five years. We all knew that we would be facing a general election this year, as did the Minister when he set this plan up. This SSIA scheme has to go down as the most crassly attempted effort to buy an election in the history of the state. The FF intellectual wing dream up this plan to give tax payers some of their own money back in one giant payout, and hold an election the month after that. It looked like all was going to plan, up until about the end of February, for a smooth transition from one Government; into another, and the ‘Real Republicans’ would still have their fat arses on the seats of power. Then the best laid plan started to unravel.

People were being poisoned. As of middle of April there was an estimation that nearly 1000 people had been struck by cryptosporidium, a bug which replicates itself when it gets into the human intestine and leads to diarrhoea & severe cramps. Some people had been hospitalised. Galway, the third largest City in the republic with a population of over 72,000 was being poisoned by what was coming out of their taps. A boil notice went up and 90,000 people were living in the effected areas. Families were paying up to €20 a week to buy fresh spring water.

The problem stems from the Terryland plant – which is in fact two water treatment plants. The newer one works at dealing with the threat of this bug but the older one which was built in the 1940’s doesn’t. What it does is this. It has mesh screening to remove large solids (that would be shit to you and me) and treats it with chlorination. The cryptosporidium survives this treatment. Then at Terryland they mix the water from this 50 year old treatment plant with the water from the newer one. Thus they’ve managed to provide a contaminated water supply to one of the wettest cities on the Island.

By any standards that can be applied – this is a case of stunning ineptitude, not taking heed of warning signs and just massive mismanagement. A resource which we are not scarce of in this country has been so badly handled that it has gone from a resource to a threat to the health of the populace. Let us take this in parts. Did anyone know this was coming?

Yes! Anglers in Lough Corrib had been complaining for over a decade about their fears around the evidence of pollution there. Ten years of being treated like ‘Cranks’ as Vinnie O’Reilly a local angler put it, by both the local council and the Government. In the same year a newsletter published by the Geological Survey of Ireland warned of the threat of this very bug in the Lough Corrib area. There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of vegetation around the Lough, another indication that pollution is prevalent. Yet despite all this, there is only one new sewage treatment plant under construction in Headford. It all appears very little and well late.

The EU commission issued two final warnings about poor water standards and inadequate controls over sewage discharges to our Government in April. There is the possibility that the EU will start to impose daily fines by the summer unless there is a dramatic improvement. In the meantime despite requests for another sewage treatment plant in Oughterard, pen has not met paper in relation to granting permission for that. So the shit still flows, and Oughterard pumps effluent into the Lough. The plant was built originally for 60 houses and it now deals with 250.

Galway city has grown by over a quarter since 1996. It is the major source of water is the big lake, Lough Corrib North of the city, and it is same water source which deals with sewage from two plants, and has the water treated by a plant which was built in the 1940’s. The planners and the gombeens at the Ministry for the Environment do not appear to be aware of the dangers of that old saying ‘don’t shit where you eat’.

Developers appear to have a roll in this tragedy. Whilst a tale of the current election campaign has seen Bettie try and explain away another incredulous act of extreme generosity by a developer, they also have a part to play here. Tony Lowes who is from the group Friends of the Irish Environment says that ‘we are in a primitive situation.’ He went on to say ‘Percolation tests [Supposed to show how groundwater drains away] have been provided by the developers’. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Developers checking up on their own work are not a source of great comfort to me as they should not be to the Department of the Environment. Yet, when you have a state managed by gombeens that appear to be in the pay of such developers, it would be foolish to expect different.

Let us look now at the solutions put forth. Our focus now shifts to the arrogant and blustering Dick Roche who when he came across this problem stated that he was going to the west to ‘knock some heads together’. This is old school Fianna Fail coming to the fore. An assumed inheritance to the kingdom of government and with a neck harder than granite he put forth the following in a letter to the Irish Times “The reality [is] that legal and practical responsibility for delivering clean water supply to the households in Galway lies with Galway city council.”

So speaks the current Minister for the Environment who lets developers tell us that they are doing what they should do in relation to the water table. When people didn’t exactly see this the same way as Dick – excuse no. 2 was trotted out with the same bravado. This is the €21 million excuse which goes back to 2002. The Minister states that this money was made available to Galway to ‘draw down’ for a new waterworks. This would appear to be what we call a partial truth. In order to use this money you need to come up with a plan and you need engineers to do that. Two engineers were allocated to draw up the plans, and they had 16 other projects to spend their time on. Alas a capital project like this has to be overseen by the Department of the Environment and in the intervening 5 years it did not appear a plan emerged. By that stage this Government was in the midst of pre-election fever and then the people of Galway started getting sick.

‘Don’t throw it all away’ pleads Michael McDowell from his election poster. Once we had water we could drink from the taps and now we don’t. In Waterford, Monaghan and Kildare they’ve had boil notices for their water. http://www.Taptips.ie is worth a look. Effectively what the authorities are doing is running down services, making you aware at the same time that it is a resource that we cannot take for granted anymore, and then they will attempt to privatise it. That is a ruthless pursuit of the neo-liberal agenda, which is what politicians appear to favor. (Fine Gaels solution for transport in Dublin is privatisation.) So elections are all about new Captain Blighs on this ship of fools. The longer we support them the more we look at them and their developer friends getting rich at the cost of everyone and everything else. Elections are all about pigs fighting over a trough, choose your pig wisely.

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