Sligo Fianna Fail TD Marc Mac Sharry has again highlighted plans by Irish Water to Close Down one of two Water facilities currently serving the greater Sligo area. He says the Cairns hill water treatment and distribution works is to be shut down by Irish Water this June.
Currently the urban area of Sligo together with areas such as Strandhill and Ballisodare are served with approximately 10,200 cubic metres of water. This is made up of 7600 cubic metres distributed from the Foxes Den plant and 2600 cubic metres pumped from Foxes Den to Cairns Hill where it is blended with water from the Cairns Hill plant. This blending practice has been carried out for some years now which helps to remedy an issue with THMs which had been deemed to be at an unsafe level before the water was blended. It is now safe.
THMs or Trihalomthanes can be created towards the end of a network where organics in the piping mix with chlorine. While not proven, it is believed that THMs may be carcinogenic and so safe levels of THMs are determined to be up to 100 micrograms per litre. Following the practice of blending Cairns Hill water with Foxes Den all water being distributed is within safe levels.
The state of the art Foxes Den facility is capable of production and distribution of in the region of 11000 cubic metres of water while the Cairns Hill facility is currently providing approximately 2500 cubic metres. A total of 13500 cubic metres.
The proposed closure of Cairns hill in June will mean the capacity available from Foxes Den will be approximately 11000 cubic metres, A reduction of 2500 cubic metres per day.
While there are plans to upgrade the Foxes Den facility to 16000 Cubic Metres capacity the necessary works have not commenced nor are there any assurances that the capital resources required are available.
If Irish Water’s retrograde action to close the Cairns Hill facility goes ahead Sligo has not capacity to cater for new companies or any other development with a significant water demand. This is totally unacceptable and will leave Sligo totally exposed. Another example of Government and State agencies damning action in the neglect of our area and blatant refusal to provide us with the capacity and resources to perform to our potential Mac Sharry claims.
I first became aware of this threat in January 2016, following which I raised the matter by way of a Private Members Motion in the Senate on January 16th 2016. Gerald Nash, then Minister responding, gave little reassurance however on April 14th 2016 Irish Water issued a Press Statement announcing the upgrade of the Foxes Den which would cater for current and substantial additional capacity. They said the works would take 9 months and would commence in May 2016. Nothing has happened since and Irish Water is set to press ahead with the closure of Cairns Hill in advance of the necessary up grades at Foxes Den.
This will leave Sligo at or close to maximum capacity with NO future commercial development potential. This together with a housing crisis; more than 1000 seeking homes on the local Authority list not least private demand which is substantial given the lack of building over the course of the last 9 years. The bottom here line is Irish Water’s Cairns Hill closure in June will further exasperate the increasing state neglect of our area and their discriminatory actions which underpin our inability to perform to our potential and provide badly needed employment and housing.
Despite the frequent self-praise in press statements from Irish Water it is beginning to come to light that they are expecting new water connection applicants to pay the substantial costs to upgrade the Foxes Den facility. The inherent danger in this is it could quite easily direct water dependent companies interested in establishing a presence here to go elsewhere such as Galway, Athlone or further afield. The Government must ensure that the Foxes Den is upgraded to 16000 cubic metre capacity before the closure of Cairns Hill and that sufficient resources are made available for this as a matter of the utmost urgency.
It has been 16 months since I first raised this matter. It seems nothing has happened since other than Irish Water is set to jeopardise Sligo’s ability to attract new business, provide housing not least perform to our potential as a whole.