Proper infrastructure must be installed in Kilkee to protect the livelihoods of the industry there according to locals.
On Wednesday, Irish Water issued a bathing prohibition notice for the beach in Kilkee following the emergency discharge of storm water which occurred as a result of the failure of a storm surge pressure vessel at the Kilkee Pumping Station, combined with heavy rainfall in the area.
Fears have been expressed by locals and public representatives over the damage this could cause to the coastal town’s reputation as a tourist attraction such is the viability of the beach to the area.
Speaking to The Clare Herald, Cillian Murphy owner of the popular Murphy Blacks restaurant in Kilkee, emphasised the importance of the beach to the area. “The beach is our lifeblood in Kilkee, it’s the jewel and the crown and we have to mind it, we are a family resort, buckets and spades, kids swimming in the sea and learning to dive, swim and snorkel, that’s been our lifeblood for two hundred years and anything that threatens that it is a serious threat to our livelihoods and the sustainability of the town. The town is built up on that basis, we don’t have any other business in the town, there’s no I.T., there’s no manufacturing, no farm mechanical companies or anything like that, the only thing we do have is tourism and the backbone of the tourism in Kilkee is the beach”.
According to the latest census, there is a 76% un-occupancy rate in Kilkee with the population dipping below one thousand for the first time. Services must be functional for the peak crowds in the town at its busiest time instead of the current scenario, Murphy says.
“We’re here with a waste water system that’s not fit for purpose and hasn’t been for twenty years, we’re now reaping the rewards. We hear it’s been bumped up the emergency list and we’ve been given undertakings that it’s going to be ready for the bathing season but as a town we have to be driving this and it’s very hard when you have nine hundred people living in the town to drive an infrastructure project that’s this size, the reality is in the summer time for three or four months there’s six and seven thousand people living here. In effect when you’re providing infrastructure for a town it’s not good enough to provide an infrastructure level for the minimum amount of people that’s here, it has to provide for what it caters for at a peak”.
Cillian insists that he and fellow residents have been patient and have taken into consideration the recent economic times in Ireland but now they’re of the view that enough is enough. “The people of Kilkee have been pretty patient, we accept a lot of these things are expensive and there isn’t a lot of money in the country, I think we’ve been pretty fair in accepting there’s a time for these things to come and situation nationally probably wasn’t the best place to be, since the last five years and Irish Water taking on the role you’d have to expect a certain amount of time and operational transfers with management.
“But when it comes down to it people in the town are fairly pissed off if the truth be known, it’s getting to the point where it is unacceptable and there’s no getting away from it, it is an unacceptable situation to have an asset like the beach in Kilkee off limits because the system is incapable of dealing with it and we’ve been promised this for twenty years, money has flown into the coffers of the local authority on the back of planning holiday towns and homes for twenty years. It obviously hasn’t flown out here to be put into the infrastructure to maintain a level of service for all the holiday homes. If the services can’t handle it don’t allow planning”.
He gave an outline of what is hoped will be put in place in the town to prevent instances like this. “We’re talking about a tertiary treatment system which would be in effect pumping clean water into the ocean instead of untreated or primary treated water. What we have is a situation here where the pumps that activate the system in Kilkee there’s a problem with them as far as I’m aware and what we have is the overflow with all the water is flowing down the Victorian stream and down the lake and into Kilkee”.
A bathing prohibition was issued on December 21st four days before a Christmas swim was due to take place. The co-founder of Loop Head Tourism questions whether a notice would have gone out had it not been for the swim.
“Somebody mentioned to me would this notice had been put out if there was no Christmas Day swim planned, it’s a valid question, there are regulative notices that have to be put in place but I’m presuming the system is there and they would have had to play by that. I’m not convinced that if there wasn’t a well-advertised and well-known Christmas Day swim happening I’m not so sure we would have heard about it”.
Irish Water released a statement during the week on the topic of Kilkee. “Irish Water and Clare County Council are working as a matter of priority to resolve the issue and minimise the impact on Kilkee beach. This includes the installation of variable speed drives on the remaining foul water pump to better manage the large volumes of storm water entering the system. In the longer term a number of improvements are being planned to address the deficiencies at the pumping station. A project team has been appointed to identify the necessary upgrade work and has reviewed a variety of options to facilitate these works. Irish Water and Clare County Council are working on this as a matter of priority with the aim of completing these works in time for the start of the 2017 bathing season”.