The Irish Times

ESB rejects idea floods due to water storage for generators

Utility says tight channel at Meelick created bottleneck in Athlone region

- Tim O’Brien

The ESB has said it does not store water for electricit­y generation anywhere on the Shannon north of Portumna in Co Galway and is not responsibl­e for recent floods.

As Westmeath County Council – aided by the Civil Defence, the Army and the Irish Red Cross – mounted a major operation to protect homes in Athlone, the ESB said a narrow channel at Meelick, south of Athlone, caused a bottleneck which was responsibl­e for water building up around the Athlone area.

ESB communicat­ions manager Bernadine Maloney said the sluices controlled by the ESB along the Shannon waterway were all set to “flood conditions” at present to allow maximum drainage of water down the system. She said 800 cubic metres of water per second were entering Lough Derg south of Portumna, and the power plant at Ardnacrush­a in Co Clare was taking 400 cubic metres per second, the maximum it could.

The ESB, which has statutory responsibi­lity for water levels on the Shannon, was also diverting 375 cubic metres per second over the Parteen weir in Co Clare. The normal discharge of water over the Parteen weir would be between 10 and 15 cubic metres per second.

She repeated the firm had no interest in storing water north of Lough Derg for power generation, its only interest being in maintainin­g water in Lough Ree and the upper Shannon in summer to aid navigation.

Damien Delaney of the Athlone branch of the Shannon Protection Alliance said maintainin­g water levels in summer was essential for navigation.

He said suggestion­s in the media that the proposed extraction of water for the greater Dublin area might solve the flooding problem were unfounded: “It would have a minor effect.”

But in the summer, the water entering Lough Derg was just 15 cubic metres per second. Extraction of 7.7 cubic metres per second at that time could result in “dry stretches between Lough Derg and Athlone particular­ly at Mellick”, he said.

Every drop counts

Residents of Athlone who battled to keep water away from homes in recent days said “every millimetre counted”. Flooding levels in affected streets in the town lowered yesterday as Westmeath County Council brought in plastic and sandbag barriers, and began a pumping operation of raw sewage which poured from drains in the Strand and Friary Lane.

Pumps and barriers were also in place on the town’s western side at Canal Banks, Deerpark, Parnell Square and The Parks. Deerpark resident Tadhg Carey said he had got just three hours’ sleep as he and his neighbours maintained pumps to keep water below the level of front doors. By lunchtime, the water had been pumped from the roadway, although a football field behind his house was deeply submerged.

Chairman of Athlone Subaqua Club Jim Campbell, a former Athlone town engineer, said the town had floods in 1928, 1954 and in the mid-1990s. But he said the flood in 2009 was the worst. He said success so far was a result of artificial sand bag and plastic sheeting barriers. However he said further rainfall could be catastroph­ic.

Westmeath County Council said levels are continuing to rise slowly and this is expected for the next five days. Further upriver, the Carrick on Shannon Chamber of Commerce building on the quays was closed due to flooding.

 ??  ?? Horses are rescued from Ballymaceg­an Island in the Shannon near Portumna, Co Galway.
Horses are rescued from Ballymaceg­an Island in the Shannon near Portumna, Co Galway.
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