Businesses voice frustration over water disruption

A Falcarragh restaurant owner has revealed how he has had to close four times in as many weeks because of water outages.

Business owners in the area say they are at their wits end with the constant supply disruptions which are costing them untold amounts in lost revenue. Irish Water has claimed that a lightning strike on its treatment plant three days before Christmas was to blame for at least one outage.

But local traders say the problems have been ongoing for years and continue to hamper the day-to-day running of their operations.
Ciaran McGarvey opened Batch Restaurant in Falcarragh in March 2019 and now employs 26 staff.


He said in his first year in business he had to close 19 times due to water shortages. He told the Donegal News he had lost count the number of occasions he has had to shut since.

“If we have no water we have no coffee, our kitchen has to close and we can’t even use the toilets. You would be amazed at the amount of stuff that can’t be done when it is taken away from you,” Mr McGarvey said.

The restaurant owner said there were never any warnings of when the water was going to be switched off.

“You don’t know until you try to turn on the tap,” he said.

Mr McGarvey did contact the water authority about compensation for lost trade which he puts at almost €30,000. But the repeated response was always that it was “planned maintenance” and that a text message had been sent out to those affected.

During the busy Christmas period Batch had to close four times in the space of four weeks.

When the business was left without water on December 22 Mr McGarvey decided that enough was enough. Rather than close on one of the busiest weeks of the year the eatery restricted its offering but continued to trade.


He said the outages were impacting heavily on his business as customers tended to associate the problems with the restaurant rather than with Irish Water.

Another frustrated business owner is Stephen Kerr who runs a butcher shop in Falcarragh.

He was also left with no water in the run up to Christmas and said the disruption was taking its toll on every business in the town.
Mr Kerr said it was a never ending cycle of exasperation for local traders.

“They get the problem fixed and then we are just waiting on the next problem to arrive,” said the butcher.

The Ardsbeg treatment plant which serves Gortahork and Falcarragh was upgraded to the tune of €4.1 million less than five years ago.

But local Councillor Michael McClafferty said the facility was “moments away from collapsing”.

He said the pre-Christmas lightning strike had caused an electrical issue which had left workers with an “invisible ghost” switching on and off controls and sensors.

Councillor Michael McClafferty.

Cllr McClafferty visited the site recently and met with staff he said were exhausted from working overtime.
The Falcarragh independent said workers were being pushed to the limit and on the verge of burn-out as a result of the ongoing problems.

He wants a specialist technician to go through the plant with a fine tooth comb to get to the root of the technical hiccups.
Councillor McClafferty said that during his visit he was made aware that the facility does not carry spare parts such as pumps, motors and valves. If there is an issue then workers are left waiting, sometimes for days, to get replacements. This in turn is leading to interference in the local water supply.

He used the latest meeting of Glenties Municipal District to call for a meeting with Irish Water’s “head honchos” and the engineers who installed the treatment plant.

Responding to the criticisms, Irish Water said operations are continuing to ensure progress made to date keeps going until normal operating processes resume.

The utility body said interruption to supply as a result of the lightning strike at the Ardsbeg treatment plant was exacerbated by an increased demand for water during the cold snap that gripped Ireland in December.

They added that works are continuing to manage daytime supply in Falcarragh and surrounding areas in partnership with Donegal County Council.

Irish Water said it wanted to apologise for the inconvenience caused and said it will continue to work with the local authority to ensure security of supply in the area.

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