Homeowners in South Kilkenny have expressed anger over the amount of money they are having to spend to fix and replace household appliances ruined by the area’s new hard water supply.
Over 100 people turned out at a recent meeting in Abbey Community College, where locals voiced their outrage at the lack of Government assistance with the matter. The meeting’s organiser, John Dunphy, also says that while members of the County Council’s water services department were invited, none attended.
“We were unable to get any answers to our questions, because none of the officials attended the meeting,” he said.
“We received no communication. It was very disappointing, we have heard nothing.”
In 2010, a new €23 million facility was commissioned to supply water to the area, with the water being drawn from a different source – groundwater reserves at Kilmacow. However, this water is much harder than that which was previously distributed – and the repercussions of this are now being felt.
The council says that in terms of potability and purity, the water is of the highest quality, and that it complies with drinking water guidelines and European directives. But homeowners cite damaged pipes, blocked showerheads, damage to other appliances – and they say it is costing them a fortune.
“The average cost per household is around €2,000 to replace the kettles, the washing machines and everything that has been totally destroyed by the limescale,” says Mr Dunphy.
“People are very angry at the moment. It is the council’s job to supply us with proper quality water.”
Locals say that no assistance has been forthcoming, and they are currently establishing a committee to progress the issue.
They want a filter or softening treatment to be carried out at source, or if this is not possible, for grants or funding to be made available for homes to soften their own water. Such systems could cost anything between €400-€800.
Kilkenny County Council’s water services engineer Billy Mernagh says that the Department of the Environment is fundamentally opposed to any softening treatment at source, and that no funding scheme exists for individual homeowners to install a system.
“If someone wants to start a campaign looking to get a grant scheme, that’s fine,” he said.
“The south is not unique – there is hard water in Kilkenny City – almost as hard. Callan is way harder.”
Local Councillor Tomas Breathnach (Labour) attended last month’s meeting. He praised the residents for a ‘well-handled and reasoned meeting’, and said that he understood peoples’ frustrations.
“We have made representations about this for a while and the answer is ‘no’ everytime,” he said.
“Any application to the Department has not been entertained. Hopefully a solution can be found to this.”
Cllr Anne-Maria Irish (FG) said that she welcomed the establishment of the new committee as a second voice to make further representations on the issue.
“A group like this will be helpful to add to our representations, it will keep this issue alive,” she said.
Around 800 locals have previously signed a petition, which Cllr Breathnach presented to the County Council’s water services department. There is an intention now to hold further meetings in the south of the county, in other areas that are affected by the problem, such as Glenmore and Slieverue.