Councillors unhappy local contractors not used for Irish Water works

COUNCILLORS have complained that local contractors are no longer being used by Irish Water.

And the decision to transfer water and sewerage away from councils a number of years ago was bemoaned by members at a Castlebar Municipal District meeting.

The comments followed a notice of motion in which Councillor Ger Deere asked that the council, in conjunction with Irish Water, as a matter of urgency, address an unacceptable situation where raw sewerage has been overflowing from a manhole at Lakeshore Drive in Castlebar.

He was told they are investigating the network, which may involve resolving defects that are potentially causing blockages, reducing capacity and resulting in surcharging of the network.

Survey works are ongoing with the final section of sewer due to be completed in the coming weeks. The survey and report on deficiencies will inform Irish Water, who will then scope works to repair the defects in Q1, 2021.

Councillor Deere welcomed the report, but added: “It's a pity it took so long.”

Councillor Michael Kilcoyne said it was an awful pity people had to suffer raw sewerage coming up onto their street. However, they were at a disadvantage as many of these jobs have been taken away from the council.

Councillor Blackie Gavin said if the pump was upgraded it would be resolved overnight.

He suggested they invite Irish Water to a meeting to discuss their plans for Castlebar and the different parts where there are issues.

Councillor Al McDonnell said if this matter was retained by the council it would not be before them – it would have been resolved. The decision to move water and sewerage from councils to Irish Water was, he said, 'a terrible decision'.

Councillor Gavin said lot of local contractors have been laid off, with an outside contractor taking over. Two weeks ago in Claremorris there was a blockage and two men came up from Cork to deal with it, he said.

Councillor Kilcoyne said the new contractor, from January 1, would no longer be based in an EU state.

Councillor Martin McLoughlin said the council had run an efficient service and one of the biggest things lost was local knowledge.

In response to a query from this paper, Irish Water said they are bound by EU procurement rules that requires semi-state organisations to open up higher-value contract opportunities to bids across the European Union.

'Of the fundamental principles, prohibition against discrimination on grounds of nationality, free movement of goods, freedom to provide services, and freedom of establishment are also central.

'Any procurement competition run by Irish Water, for new or replacement contractors, is required to follow the above rules stringently, whilst also supported by rigorous internal governance procedures.

'Irish Water is very aware and cognisant of the important role SMEs play in our supply chain and, if unsuccessful in a tender competition, endeavour to facilitate engagement between suppliers, in the event that a working relationship can be formed between incoming and outgoing suppliers'.

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