Torrential rains brought the city to a standstill on Monday morning, causing damage to vehicles and city centre businesses.
According to the Galway City Council’s director of services Ciarán Hayes “no system would have been able to handle” what amounted to almost half an inch of rain per hour.
Councillors were quick to blame the city’s sewerage system as not being fit for purpose, while also accusing city businesses for contributing to the problem by pouring oil into drains and blocking up the system.
Not all councillors share this view, however. Speaking after the meeting, Labour councillor Niall McNelis said: “To blame restaurants for the flooding last Monday is wrong. The council never blamed oil on the problem. The problem is that we need to separate waste water and sewage in the city centre. This will cost €40 million and is something Labour and Fine Gael councillors will have to lobby for.”
The demand put on the sewers and drains and the system’s inability to drain quickly enough resulted in sewage being pushed from the system up to the street.
Roads had to be closed in order to pump water from the floods and to enable city council crews to jet wash sewage from the streets. Mr Hayes said at the time that he could not confirm whether the bay had been contaminated with sewage until further tests were carried out.
Fine Gael Councillor Pádraig Conneely claimed that the city cannot cope with a mere “heavy shower of rain”.
He said: “There was no monsoon this morning, or a tsunami. Let’s not get carried away, the city cannot cope with a heavy shower of rain, you’d need a boat going down Shop Street on an ordinary day.”
Cllr Conneely was also unimpressed by the director of services’ presentation on the day’s severe weather conditions, poking fun at a picture from Met Éireann that the director projected on the chamber wall while he spoke about drainage problems in the city.
In defence, Mr Hayes said even if the city had an estimated €40 million needed to update the city’s system, it would not have prevented the problem from occurring.
“There are hundreds of miles of drains and thousands of gullies,” he said. “Even if we had the €40 million and had it spent it still wouldn’t have stopped what happened today.”
Hayes agreed that pouring oils into drains is causing a problem, and that the council are currently designing a scheme to prevent fat and grease from being poured into the system.
Cllr McNelis said: “There is a plan in place to monitor grease traps later this year. This will see they are maintained and are cleaned by waste companies authorised to dispose of the fats properly.”
He was again critical of those who blamed the clogging of the drains on restaurants.
“It does a lot of damage to those businesses paying commercial rates, mostly at the higher end, and presume that bars, cafés, hotels, and restaurants are dumping grease fat down drains. I was contacted on Wednesday morning by numerous businesses angry they are being blamed, and I explained that the Galway City Council never pointed the finger at them over the flooding.”