‘Tis hard to kill off the Mervues, the Bohermores, the Claddaghs and the Shantall-ians. It is no coincidence that the four areas that are in the headlines this week are communities that house the hardiest people in the city. Homes to dozens of centenarians, and families of amazing strength and tenacity, it is these bastions of auld Galway that are in the eye of the current storm.
Of course, it is the fact that these areas are the true Galway that has put them at the centre of the latest water scare. These are areas that have to a large degree managed to hold back the bulldozers that have turned Galway into Matchbox City. And because of that the piping that brings the clean water from the water plants to their traditional homes in traditional areas is deemed to be the cause of the contamination that has seen some and possibly many families consuming water with up to FOUR or FIVE times the permissible level of lead.
Nobody is blaming the Galway City Council for causing this matter and that should be clear from the outset. In any business, mistakes are tolerated and things happen. But it is by how people deal with mistakes that they will be judged. And if the news coming out of Dublin last night is true, then it is sad to say that the city council has let us down yet again. And so has the slow-turning EPA. Over the past year ever since the handling of the water crisis and the Eyre Square debacle, there was a feeling that the city council had earned itself many kudos, but those brownie points could be gone by the weekend.
As you can see from our lead story, the Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that the council knew about this back in the last week of July, albeit at a time when the city and county were shut down and half the town was at the racing. Let’s be clear here. At that stage the city council, our city council knew that people in the Tone Avenue area of Mervue were consuming water with more than four times the permissible level of lead.
One would have thought that having alerted the EPA, that the next step would have been to alert the communities where these lead levels were detected and make arrangements to ensure that they could not go on poisoning themselves.
But no, that is not what happened — at that stage the EPA asked the City Council to clarify ownership of the affected pipe and determine what needed to be done to remedy this. This was on July 31, the day after the EPA were informed.
For the next 25 days, feck all happened to expedite the situation. You would have thought that given the gravity of the situation, a sense of urgency would have prevailed, but no. It was August 25 before the EPA, acting on a response from the City Council, issued further instructions. And on September 8, the council responded. Jesus, how do these people operate? Meetings were held with the HSE and on Tuesday the direction was given to inform the public. On September 24. And all the time since July, the good people of Mervue, Shantalla, Claddagh, and Bohermore were slowly poisoning themselves with lead in the water.
The city council and officials meet tomorrow. It will be a stormy meeting, of that there is little doubt. It is not for those of a nervous disposition. Hopefully heads will be knocked together so that we can get answers as to why the people of Galway have been treated shabbily again.