Local restaurants are being blamed for contributing to flooding in the city on Monday, after it was claimed that discarded cooking oil is blocking the city’s drains and gullies.
At a meeting of Galway City Council on Monday night, Director of Services Ciaran Hayes made a representation to councillors on the impact of the day’s torrential downpours and the clean-up efforts taking place across the city.
But, despite his claims that “no system would have been able to handle it”, councillors immediately raised concerns over the state of the city’s drainage facilities and the raw sewage that had overflowed into local streets during the deluge.
Cllr Padraig Conneely said there hadn’t been a tsunami and yet residents in the Davis Road area were forced to climb over walls to leave their homes. He added that these residents had experienced flooding for over 40 years and were being neglected by the local authority.
Cllr Tom Costello disputed his colleague’s comments on the severity of the weather, saying it was lucky lives weren’t lost because of the severity of the deluge.
But, while Cllr Collette Connolly claimed that traffic calming measures including speed ramps were causing “huge issues” in relation to flooding in city estates, several other councillors reported that workers had found that discarded cooking oil was resulting in blockages in some drains and gullies.
Mr Hayes also acknowledged that the disposal of cooking oil was a problem, saying the practise of dumping into local drains was being carried out by a large percentage of local hospitality businesses.
However, he stressed that it had been a “very significant weather incident”, with Galway City bearing the brunt of the rain on Monday. He estimated that the rainfall reached between 12 and 24mm per hour and said that even if a €40 million investment to tackle flooding in the Spanish Arch area had gone ahead, the city would not have been able to deal with it.
Mr Hayes also pointed out that the city was dealing with these issues with a decreasing staff and said the concentration of combined water and sewerage pipes, which contribute to the wastewater overflow, was not an easy issue to resolve.
However, he reassured councillors that all staff are currently on standby in case of worsening conditions in the coming days and said the council was taking a “proactive and reactive” approach to drain clearage in the city.
Meanwhile, environmental group An Taisce has also added its voice to the criticism aimed at Galway City Council’s handling of the floods. In a statement yesterday, Chairman Derek Hambleton said the heavy flooding was “the inevitable result” of the council’s failure to “act with any urgency” on improving the quality of drains.
Mr Hambleton said many premises in the city did not have ‘grease traps’ and some newer apartments were being fitted with ‘under sink macerators”, which dumped food leftovers into “inadequate drains”. He also said that leftover oils were “continually causing processing problems” at Mutton Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“This is a most serious issue threatening Galway’s future participation in An Taisce’s Blue Flag campaign. Answers are urgently required from Galway City Council about their progress in getting to grips with this issue. Honest answers are now required,” he said.