City council response to big freeze to cost €600,000

City water supply sufficient while county still critical

Silence of the lambs — the snowcapped Twelve Pins provided a beautiful backdrop for this picture 
by Christopher Czyz.

Silence of the lambs — the snowcapped Twelve Pins provided a beautiful backdrop for this picture by Christopher Czyz.

Gritting and salting of roadways, the repairing of leaks and burst mains, and other actions taken to reduce the disruption caused by the big freeze, and now the thaw, are expected to cost the Galway City Council in excess of €600,000.

Director of services for the council, Ciaran Hayes, told the Galway Advertiser that this figure was based on the fact that €15,000 per day was spent on grit and salt alone, and other costs factored in which were for the repairing of leaks and burst water mains and importing of water from the county council. “We expected the end figure to be much higher,” said Mr Hayes, who added that following the thaw the council is now facing the challenge of removing the grit that is left behind on the footpaths and roads. A major street sweeping operation has now been implemented with particular attention being paid to the clearing of gullies and drains.

“Sixty tonnes of grit and salt were put down on a daily basis and 300 tonnes was laid down last weekend alone. It’s been quite a major co-ordinated response. With that amount of grit, there needs to be a clean up operation. The drains and gullies have to be cleared to cater for the extra rainfall.

“There have been meetings on a daily basis. From the start of the cold spell all main routes were kept open, the bus routes were open, refuse collectors was able to gain access to housing estates, the guards and the HSE were satisfied with their access to areas. With regards gritting and salting, we worked with residents’ associations over the weekend and we’re very happy with the results.”

With regard to the water supply problems Mr Hayes said that the efforts made by the public so far to conserve water has “allowed the reservoirs to replenish” and that the supply was now “sufficient”. There were a number of burst pipes throughout the main network with localised outtages in Renmore and in Taylor’s Hill, and the council is concentrating on repairing the pipes.

“There were two problems, increase in burst and leak pipes and taps running. Both were having an affect on the reservoir levels. The situation at the moment is that the thaw has set in and households with frozen pipes are now starting to see a thaw and services are restored.

“The city has experienced minor outtages. There was a consumption increase of 60 per cent daily. We’re normally able to cope with that but because of the cold spell it was depleting the reservoirs. There were a number of evenings last week where the levels were critical.

“We’ve been able to monitor the levels now and we didn’t need to restrict the water. The conservation by the public helped and we fixed the pipes.

“Water supply was maintained because of the response of the public in conserving water and the work of the residents’ associations.”

Mr Hayes warns that the public should not leave taps running, need to check for leaks and burst pipes caused by the thaw, and to check for air locks in the system.

Galway County Council was not so optimistic when contacted yesterday with director of water services Jim Cullen describing the situation as still “critical”.

“The difficulties have been caused by excessive demand which is in excess of the amount of water that can be treated and delivered. The council is still making an appeal for householders and businesses to check for leaks on their systems and have them repaired immediately.

“This has been going on for three weeks now. In areas where there is no water supply we have delivered tankers to try to bring as much water to as many people as possible. Constant inspections have been carried out by the council to identify leaks on mains and repair them. There have been restrictions but this is to ensure that people get a supply at some time. The vast majority of people are not experiencing any disruption.

Mr Cullen went on to to say that demand for water jumped from 25 to up to 50 per cent above normal demands in the last three weeks, and that this coincided with the cold weather and running of taps. He said that “water supply dwindled very quickly, pipes froze, and now because of the thaw there are leaks and bursting of pipes”.

“Resumption of normal water supply could happen quickly if we get a reduction in the amount of water going through the system, if not the difficulties could be prolonged. I think it’s achievable but conservation of water is key. There’s a lot of checking to be done by everyone,” said Mr Cullen.

There were problems experienced in Ballinasloe last Tuesday night with a major burst occurring on the distribution line on the Regional Water Supply which is currently being repaired. The burst caused reservoir levels to drop with water users in Garbally, Ashfield Drive, Ard Mhuire, Clonfert, Clontuskert, Laurencetown, Eyrecourt, Kiltormer, and Clonlahan experiencing low pressure and disruptions to supply throughout yesterday. There are sporadic disruptions to supply and low pressure on the Spiddal Water Supply. Reservoir levels fell significantly over the past few days due to a marked increase in usage in certain areas supplied by the Mid-Galway Water Supply. Restrictions were put in place on Tuesday evening in areas such as Kiltulagh and the surrounding areas south of the railway line. A water tanker is stationed at Kiltulagh Church to provide emergency supply. Boil water notices continue to be imposed in the Ballinasloe and mid-Galway areas.

There continues to be disruptions to supply in parts of Rosmuc and Roundstone, Moycullen, and Gort. Galway County Council is repeating its call for people to conserve water and repair leaks immediately.

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