The level of the River Shannon in Athlone has fallen by 51cm since its peak on January 5 and is predicted to fall further over the coming days, according to a report issued by Westmeath County Council on Tuesday.
Despite the fall in the level of the Shannon flood defences will continue to be maintained for the time being as a precaution, while plans for a clean-up take shape at the same time.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser on Wednesday, council district manager, Pat Keating, said: “We anticipate that there will be a coordinated clean-up in gardens of affected houses where sewage may have come up early next week. Irish Water will be coordinating that. We need the level to fall a little further before we dismantle defences, which it is anticipated to, but we are still looking at the forecast daily. At the moment, if we got another severe weather event we would be right back in the mix.
“We have started downgrading pumps for periods during the day, but it is still a little too early to fully decommission defences. We don’t want to take them all down to have to put them back in a hurry. It does not make sense to take them down just yet. If the levels drop another 40cm I think we will dismantle everything, because we would be able to take a serious weather event in that case without the defences in place.”
Mr Keating warned that the situation remains reliant on future weather conditions: “We are at the mercy of the weather,” he said. “We know from looking at the weather forecast that there is cold air in Europe and warm air coming across the Atlantic. Where they meet there will be a deluge, so we continue to monitor that each and every day.”
Mr Keating added that the council will be distributing home packs for clean-up today (Thursday ) through its water services and Civil Defence, and will be alerting people about the clean up of the gardens identified as having sewage issues as early as next week.