I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this issue, and I commend the people of Williamstown for raising it and bringing it to the attention of the national and local media in a very professional way. The matter was summed up very well by a headline in The Irish Times on 5 January: “Galway Community may face two years on boil water notice”. The article refers to “a contaminated water supply in Co Galway which could affect about 1,000 people for two years.” The powers that be have a considerable responsibility to find a quick solution to the contamination of the water supply in Williamstown, County Galway. The contaminant is cryptosporidium, which was in the Galway city water supply some years ago.
This boil water notice is supposed to be dealt with by brining water from Lough Mask in County Mayo. I heard the Taoiseach state this in the House. If this happens, it will take two years, although I welcome any development to alleviate the problem.
Local people have been told to boil water before using it for drinking, food preparation and even brushing teeth. Therefore, it is now important that we examine another solution in the meantime. I refer to a local solution, perhaps using the other water treatment plants in the area. There are a number of different water schemes in the area. If access could be gained to their water temporarily, it would deal with the difficulties that have to be addressed. I hope this will happen. It is felt that Irish Water’s proposal to bring water from Lough Mask is a long-term option. Irish Water has been in contact with the community in Williamstown. I was glad to receive an invitation to meet Irish Water representatives in Williamstown next Friday. The local elected representatives will be able to listen to the proposal.
It is only right that I should put on record the fact that the boil water notice is a very serious issue. In The Tuam Herald today, a headline reads “Williamstown group to tour contaminated water plant”. This is the tour we are talking about. What amazed me was the fact that many people were not told about the boil water notice. One family has spoken about how they all got sick from the water, except for a young girl who had the flu injection because she has a heart condition. The other members of the family were all very ill because they only saw the boil water notice in the general practitioner’s surgery. There is certainly a problem with communication, as it transpires that people did not know about the fact that there was contamination of the water.
I was glad to see in The Tuam Herald this week that, following the placement of an advertisement in that newspaper, a caretaker will be appointed for the Williamstown and Glenamaddy water schemes. This is most important, because it is very difficult for one caretaker to look after a huge area of north Galway. That the position is now being advertised is very welcome. However, the main point I am raising today is that we need a solution now. We cannot wait for two years for the people in Williamstown to see water coming from Lough Mask in County Mayo to solve their problem.
Lough Mask supplies the water to Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, which is 20 km from Williamstown. There is a lot of work to be done to get the water as far as Williamstown. In fairness to the people in that area, there should be an opportunity to provide water for Williamstown in a far shorter time.
I hope I have highlighted the information that Irish Water and the HSE have given on the seriousness of the position. I have told the Minister of State, Deputy Ann Phelan, what they have stated water cannot be used for, and it is a major concern. I hope that we will learn more from the officials of Irish Water on Friday when they visit the treatment plant in Williamstown and when they go to Lough Mask to show what is available there.
This is a most serious situation. The Tuam Herald highlighted today that the people in Williamstown will get a chance to get more detail on this. I hope Irish Water can give us a more short-term solution.