Friday 16 May 2008

Council denies cover-up over contamination of Ennis water

THE ENNIS town engineer has denied that Clare County Council concealed information from the public in relation to the level of cryptosporidium in the Ennis water supply.

Tom Tiernan was commenting yesterday after it emerged through a Freedom of Information request from The Irish Times that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), had warned the council there was a risk of a cryptosporidium outbreak a month before two children contracted it.

The council decided not to make the EPA's concerns public and Mr Tiernan denied that the council had concealed information from the public. "We have been up front. Absolutely! We inform the public when we need to inform the public, and when we believe that it is appropriate," he said

Mr Tiernan added it was very difficult to emerge "squeaky clean" when deciding what level of information to release to the public.

"The council is liaising with the Health Service Executive [HSE] and the EPA on a continuing basis and we wouldn't have time to do anything else if we were telling the public about all our dealings with these bodies."

Mr Tiernan said a balance had to be struck between advising the public of any elevated risk and causing panic."There are enough people doing that and we try our best to keep councillors and the general public informed as best we can.

"When there is a change to the status quo or a deterioration in the water supply, we would notify the public in consultation with the HSE."

He said the water from the Ennis public water supply was safe to drink, particularly after the plant's treatment capacity increased by 25 per cent since March. "There is no question, but there has been significant improvement in the water quality and a significant reduction in the level of risk, but not the reduction you would have with the permanent plant when it becomes operational."

Before June 2006, Mr Tiernan added, when the temporary treatment plant became operational, there was no filtration of the water for cryptosporidium and no water was bypassing the temporary treatment plant for treatment for cryptosporidium.

"We haven't arrived at where we want to be yet. We are working towards compliance and we are taking this very seriously. I would expect that the council would be compliant over the next number of days as we are tweaking and optimising the additional capacity."

Irish Times

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