Francis and his team continue to work to keep the water and wastewater networks in Co Meath functioning

Like everyone, Francis Duffy, who works in the Mechanical and Electrical Maintenance Unit with Meath County Council has been learning to adjust to the ‘new normal’ under the Covid-19 restrictions. While ways of working have changed to comply with social distancing, he and his team continue to work in partnership with Irish Water to keep the water and wastewater networks in Co Meath functioning. 

Francis leads a team of fifteen mechanical and electrical fitters who maintain and repair water pumps and remove blockages from the wastewater network on behalf of Irish Water. Speaking about the breadth of work he is involved in, Francis said “There are thousands of kilometres of wastewater and water pipes in Meath as well as thousands of pumps and lots of treated water reservoirs and water and wastewater treatment plants. My team helps to ensure that water arrives safely at customers’ taps and that when people flush their toilets their wastewater is transferred to one of wastewater treatment plants.”  

Essential day-to-day works continue

Maintaining the water and wastewater system is a 24 hour a day job that carries on, even in difficult conditions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, essential day-to-day works are continuing – fixing burst pipes, repairing leaks and clearing blockages in public sewers - but with social distancing measures in place, such as travelling in separate vehicles. Safeguarding the health and wellbeing of both staff and the public while ensuring that healthcare facilities for example have secure and sustainable water supplies and that wastewater systems are operating effectively is the priority for Francis and his colleagues in Meath County Council and in Irish Water.  

“I’m not working from home very often during the pandemic because I can work safely at the treatment plant in Trim. If I’m not at the plant, I am out on the road attending incidents such as a recent pump blockage in Enfield. This blockage was caused by people flushing wipes and other sanitary waste down the toilet. While we understand that people may be using more antiseptic wipes for hygiene purposes at this time, flushing wipes can cause blockages on the network. Wet wipes should always go in the bin and never be flushed as the likely result is that my team and I will have to clear it from somewhere along the network,” said Francis. 

With people adhering to government advice and staying at home since mid-March in response to the Covid-19 crisis, Irish Water has confirmed that there has been a significant increase in household water usage. Met Eireann has confirmed that May 2020 was the driest since 1850. Their data shows that temperatures were above average in nearly all areas and rainfall totals in every county were below average for the season, with the Greater Dublin Area, Westmeath, Sligo and Tipperary experiencing their driest spring on record. Irish Water has taken the step of issuing a Water Conservation Order, or hosepipe ban, to safeguard water supplies for essential purposes.

Conserve where possible

Commenting on the dry weather, Francis said “With three children at home I can appreciate how beneficial the good weather has been for families during the Covid19 pandemic. The dry weather has been a blessing for giving people the chance to enjoy their gardens but it has meant that a lot of people are power-hosing their driveways and gardens. Given the prolonged dry spell we really do need to conserve water wherever possible. Small actions like using a watering can rather than a hose in the garden can really help. We can only produce a certain amount of treated drinking water and this water really needs to be safeguarded.”

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues over the next number of months, so too will the work of Francis and his team in Meath County Council and colleagues in Irish Water in ensuring the continuity of critical drinking water and wastewater services for homes, businesses, hospitals and nursing homes in Meath.

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