Irish Water and Mayo County Council have advised customers supplied by the Achill Pubic Water Supply, including group water schemes, that a boil water notice for the duration of six weeks will be issued on the supply, starting from 9am on February 1, to accommodate the next phase of the planned works at the Achill Water Treatment Plant.
Irish Water stated: "The Boil Water Notice will be in place for approximately six weeks and is necessary to protect customers while essential upgrade works are carried out at the water treatment plant."
Irish Water and Mayo County Council working in partnership with EPS are upgrading the filtration and clarification treatment processes at the plant.
The water utility company went on to say in a statement that: "Approximately 2,800 customers on the island and the adjacent mainland, who are supplied by the Achill Public Water Supply, must boil their water before drinking and preparing food from February 1.
"There is no need for customers to buy bottled water. Once tap water is boiled and cooled it will be safe for consumption. The water is safe for all other applications, including personal hygiene, bathing and flushing of toilets.
"The following are the Group Water Schemes served by the Achill Public Water Supply Scheme: Dooniver, Saulia No 2, Crumpaun; Dooega; Shraheens, Achill; Dugort No 1, Dugort No. 2, Dugort East, Valley 1, and Valley 3, Bleanaskil No 1 and Ards Curraun."
Earlier this week, the issue of the water supply on the island was once again highlighted by local Fianna Fáil Councillor, Paul McNamara, who asked what had been done to ensure that a similar fate last summer, does not befall the island again this summer.
Cllr McNamara asked was Irish Water going to provide an alternative treatment plant if the plant on the island fails again, due to increased demand on the supply, particularly in the summer months.
He told the West Mayo Municipal District meeting that: "There was an audit carried out by the EPA on September 3, 2020, and the result of that audit pointed out where the defects of the plant were and what the audit said was ‘the plant will not have resilience to deal with the seasonal increase and the EPA recommended that Irish Water should take action to improve the resilience of the Achill pumping water supply by ensuring the water treatment plant has sufficient capacity to deal with seasonal increases in water demand'."
He continued: "The €250,000 that was allocated - that was to solve the aluminium problems that we were having in the water treatment plant and, in fairness, the quality of the water at the moment is excellent in the Achill area with less than 200 micrograms per thousand litre.
"The capacity hasn’t changed and the capacity of the plant is for 2,000 to 2,500 people and the EPA has said in its report that the plant can’t cope with anything above that.
"So my question is, what are Irish Water and Mayo County Council putting in place to deal with the increase that will occur for 12 to 14 weeks per year from 2,500 to 5,000 and up to a maximum of 10,000 people, what will be put in place to resolve that problem?"
Responding to Cllr McNamara's query, Padraig Walsh, head of the municipal district for Mayo County Council, said: "I know Cllr McNamara raised this in December, he asked the question if the plant fails again next summer what is the back up plan?
"I forwarded the query to the water team and to Irish Water and the reply I received is that the upgrading works carried out at the time of the previous incident and the planned works to be completed in early 2021, will improve the resilience of the plant and will prevent a reoccurrence of the last summer incident where a do-not-consume notice had to be placed on the scheme.
"Depending on the demand for water supply on the island in the coming summer, operational interventions such as the provision of water tankers to assist with reservoir filling and other measures, such as curtailment of supply at night, may need to be implemented as well."
The response did not sit well with Cllr McNamara, who responded, saying: "Really, what we are telling the people of Achill is that even though the EPA said the treatment plant in Achill is at full capacity at 2,500 people, that there is nothing to be done, but get tankers down from Tipperary again to fill all the reservoirs around the parish and the businesses then will have no water and the hospitality sector and the residents will have no water and will be queuing again.
"Nothing is going to be done, even though the EPA has made a recommendation to say that and that is in their report in September that the plant can’t cope with the capacity, not being able to cope with it going above 2,500 to 3,000 people -
"I acknowledge the work they have done and are doing and the quality of the water is 100 per cent, but surely there is something that can be done and put in place before June; that if we have a problem again with our treatment plant, that the whole area won’t have to shut down and tankers and ‘bowsers’ (mobile water tanks ) be deployed from every part of the country - because that’s what happened the last time. Bowsers had to be taken from nearly every county in Ireland and put into Achill."
Cllr McNamara went on to say: "Can we send a letter to the department and Irish Water for a backup plan if the Achill Water treatment plant goes above 3,000 and what that plan will be?
"I cannot accept that their plan for that is going to be tankers filling reservoirs when we know the issue and problem that is ahead of us, when a second plant should be put in place, a plant mobilising our existing plant to cater for the outflow of water that will be needed for the period of time, surely that can be done."
The Achill based councillor concluded by saying: "The cost was €205,000; that’s what it cost for the tankers. It was €167,000 plus vat, which is about €205,000, not taking into account the hours and time that Mayo County Council and Irish Water put into that as well. If you multiply that by two we are well on the way to half a million of a cost, when that would go a long way to solving our problem."