Water supply for customers in Louth and east and south Meath is returning after Louth County Council, on behalf of Irish Water completed a complex repair on a uniquely high pressured water main. The burst saw outages and reduced supply for up to 60,000 domestic and business customers around Drogheda, south Louth, east and south Meath as the storage in local reservoirs was gradually depleted.

Three attempts to fix the 50 year old pipe failed over last weekend as the corrosion and warping of the pipe meant that any available standard fittings were not sufficient.

A bespoke piece of pipe and fittings were manufactured in Belfast and finished in Balbriggan and on site early on Wednesday morning when the repair was made.

Water was gradually run back through the pipe and during Wednesday reservoirs were slowly filled as production was increased at the Staleen Water Treatment Plant. As a result, supply is today being gradually restored to customers.

It may take some time for full pressure to be restored to all customers, particularly those on high ground and at the periphery of the network and Irish Water is appealing to customers to continue to conserve their mains water supply for the next few days until supply has returned to normal. Irish Water is satisfied based on testing that the water is safe to drink. Irish Water will continue to monitor the water quality over the coming days. We can anticipate some local issues with taste and colour and advice is available on our website, water.ie.

Water will continue to be delivered to vulnerable customers and temporary water stations will remain in place until we are satisfied that full supply is restored.

Irish Water mobilised our Crisis Management team at the weekend and has worked consistently since then in partnership with Louth and Meath Councils to address the technical issues while doing everything possible to get water to communities, particularly vulnerable customers and to provide accurate information as far as possible.

At the height of the outage, there were 20 tankers refreshing reservoirs; seven stand pipes; 10 stationary tankers; 63 Bulk Water Containers; 13 tankers filling the Bulk Water Containers; and 9 bowsers providing water for those affected. In addition water was rationed around the network that allowed some customers to have limited supply for a few hours per day. At all times, the critical supply to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and the town centre was prioritised and maintained at all times.

Speaking about the incident, Managing Director of Irish Water Jerry Grant said,

Irish Water is continuing to monitor this pipe and to ensure that the repair holds and that no other issues emerge. In the aftermath of this we will review the provision of drinking water in this area and how we might build greater resilience into the system, such as when we were able to move some water from Fingal to Meath.

It's clear from the significant level of disruption and hardship endured by so many customers as a result of the burst that the replacement of this pipe must be a priority for Irish Water. A detailed programme for complete replacement will take a number of weeks to finalise and we will need to undertake detailed planning and design work before we can be confident around the exact timeframe. However, a preliminary view suggests a timeframe of 18 months and a budget of €2-3m will be needed to complete the work. In addition the Staleen Water Treatment Plant is scheduled to commence a significant upgrade of the water treatment plant and pumping station in the coming months.

Providing clean safe drinking water is an absolute priority for Irish Water. We are aware of the challenges we face with an aging network and the reality that significant failures will occur from time to time for the foreseeable future. For that reason, we are committed to responding as quickly and effectively as possible when failures do occur. We will look back on all aspects of this incident in the coming days in order to determine what lessons we can learn and what other measures we can put in place now to deal with a similar event in the future.

Irish Water sincerely regrets the considerable inconvenience caused by this prolonged outage. We recognise that it resulted in significant hardship for communities and businesses. As a national utility, Irish Water was able to coordinate a national response. with water tankers and assistance coming from Councils all around the country, from Northern Ireland Water, from Civil Defence and the Army and private operators. We are grateful for all of the support, and a special mention must go to voluntary organisations, community groups, local elected representatives and individuals who gave so freely of their time to assist the more vulnerable in their localities. None of this would have been possible without the professionalism, technical ability and commitment of the staff of the Louth and Meath County Councils who deserve great credit for the roles they played.”

Louth, Meath

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