Irish Water chief says transfer of council staff is urgent

Irish Water executives informing TDs and senators of drinking water contamination incidents in Dublin and Wexford will warn that the management structure of water treatment plants is inadequate.

iall Gleeson, managing director of Irish Water, wrote to the Oireachtas housing committee to say that there is an urgent need for all factories to be placed under the direct control of the public service.

Mr Gleeson and other senior Irish Water executives will attend the committee Thursday morning, a week after it emerged at least 52 people have fallen ill and nearly a million have been put at risk after failures disinfection in two treatment plants in August.

No incidents were reported to Irish Water for a few days, so notification to health and environmental authorities was also delayed.

In a statement to the commission, Mr. Gleeson reiterates his apologies for the incidents.

“While equipment failures and human errors can occur, the late reporting of process failure issues in factories has kept us from responding and compromised water quality,” he says.

“The current service level agreement, whereby Irish Water works alongside 31 local authorities to provide water services, is no longer fit for purpose.

“The problems that have arisen in the water treatment plants in Dublin and Wexford clearly show the limits of current working methods and underline the urgency for change.

“Irish Water has legal responsibility but no direct control over water treatment plants across the country.”

Government policy is to transfer the 3,500 local water administration employees to Irish Water jobs so that a single utility is responsible for the water, but the plan has raised concerns among workers regarding safety and conditions of employment.

Talks between the public service and unions began in the Workplace Relations Commission earlier this year and will resume later this month.

Mr. Gleeson emphasizes that he does not blame the employees for the incidents of the last month.

“We need to be clear that this is not a criticism of the thousands of experienced water service professionals working in local authorities,” he said.

“We want to resolve structural issues so that individuals on the ground can benefit from clear lines of communication and national support systems that a single organization can provide.

“It is essential that the transition to a single public service takes place as a matter of urgency. “

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