90,000 people in Galway are without a safe public drinking water supply for an indefinite period, following the pollution of the supply with Cryptosporidium, a parasitic micro-organism.
Meanwhile there are (at time of writing) 112 reported cases of illness, some serious, although medical experts are of the opinion that the number is far higher. One city councillor, who fell ill, reports she lost a stone in weight as a consequence.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government travelled to Galway on Friday 30th March 2007 to, as he said, âknock heads togetherâ?.
His motivation was more likely that of keeping his own head, politically speaking.
Legally, the responsibility within the Government for ensuring that the people of Galway have a safe public drinking water supply lies, with him, the Minister, and always did.
He is the person charged with meeting the legal obligation of the State, under EU law, to ensure the safety of public drinking water supply.
The State, which has the primary responsibility, in law, to meet that obligation (which it attempted to defer, as long as possible, it would appear) delegated the responsibility to the local authorities.
The Environmental Protection Agency has expressed the position thus:
âThe production, distribution and monitoring of drinking water in Ireland is the responsibility of the sanitary authority (i.e. the local authority) in the case of public water supplies which supply water to approximately 80% of Irelandâs population.â?
The State in so doing, simply adopted an administrative method of meeting the obligation, but did not divest itself of it.
Thus, the Government and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government are directly answerable for the absence of a safe public drinking water supply for Galway.
There are elements in the Departmental website posting following the Ministerâs trip, that tend to point to this. See HERE and below.
The statement, set out in full below (with interpolations to highlight the points of comment), needs deconstruction, using some apt definitions in that exercise. The writer is very indebted to âThe Penguin Guide to Plain Englishâ? by Harry Blamires.
âStatement on Galway Water Supply
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Mr. Dick Roche, T.D. met today (30th March 2007) with the Mayor of Galway City, Niall Ã BrolchÃ¡in, the Mayor of Galway County, Michael Mullins and with the Managers and Senior Officials from both Councils, and with senior officials from the HSE, to consider the current problems (âPROBLEMâ?) with water supply (âSUPPLYâ?) in the Galway City area and environs.
It was noted that there was a very high level of co-operation between the two local authorities involved and the HSE in trying to resolve current problems. (âPROBLEMâ?) Minister Roche stated his commitment to assisting the local authorities in their joint efforts, and he acknowledged (âACKNOWLEDGEDâ?) the efforts of the HSE and the local authorities in (âINâ?) protecting public health in the affected area.
A package (âPACKAGEâ?) of measures was discussed (âDISCUSSEDâ?) to deal with the water quality issue in terms of (âIN TERMS OFâ?) short term, medium term and long term solutions. Further work will be required to finalise this package but it was agreed that it should include:
1. The two local authorities will aim to reduce the impact (âIMPACTâ?) on householders arising from the current difficulties. (âDIFFICULTIESâ?)
2. Efforts to identify the source or sources of the outbreak (âOUTBREAKâ?) would continue.
3. Water supply from the Tuam (Luimnagh) plant will be increased to augment the City supply, the additional supply from this source to come on stream within a matter of weeks. (âWITHIN A MATTER OF WEEKSâ?)
4. The old Terryland Water Treatment Plant will be phased out (âPHASED OUTâ?) as additional supply is delivered from the Tuam system.
5. Demand management (âDEMAND MANAGEMENTâ?) measures to deal with any shortfall in capacity in advance of the medium term measures coming into operation will be examined (âEXAMINEDâ?) by both local authorities.
6. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government undertook to assist in relation to staffing issues required to deal with the immediate problems (âPROBLEMâ?) now arising. In addition, the City Council’s recent application for additional staff to deliver its water services programme is to be considered (âCONSIDEREDâ?) by the Department.
7. That FÃ¡ilte Ireland will be approached (âAPPROACHEDâ?) to put in place a campaign advertising that Galway City and County remains open for business.
8. Additional resources to be provided from the Local Government Fund for both local authorities to cover exceptional (âEXCEPTIONALâ?) costs, including water quality testing, currently (âCURRENTLYâ?) arising.
9. The installation of a water treatment Package (âPACKAGEâ?) Plant at Terryland to provide 18 million litres per day which should (âSHOULDâ?) come on stream before the end of the year.
10. A commitment from Galway City Council and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to fasttrack (âFASTTRACK) the advancement (âADVANCEMENTâ?) of the new Treatment Plant in Galway at a cost of over (âOVERâ?) â¬21 million.
11. The Minister also announced that he was providing â¬27.4 million for increased storage and water conservation measures in Tuam. This would also allow for (âALLOW FORâ?) additional water to be made available to the City in the longer term.
12. All parties acknowledged (âACKNOWLEDGEDâ?) that the current Water Services Programme 2005 â 2007 which included â¬451 million for water and waste water treatment, could (âCOULDâ?) bring significant benefits to the county and city and that all parties would work to accelerate the delivery (âDELIVERYâ?) of these projects, (âPROJECTâ?) in particular the water treatment plants around Lough Corrib.
Further work needs to be done on all these issues (âISSUEâ?) and all parties agreed to work closely (âCLOSELYâ?) until the problem is resolved.
The HSE emphasised that boiled tap water is safe to drink and people should continue to boil water. The HSE also advised that there is no benefit to be gained from boiling bottled water and advised that boiled mineral water should not be used to prepare infant formula.
The boil water notice will not be rescinded until there is a consistently safe, high quality water supply and there is a marked decline (âDECLINEâ?) in human infection.
POINTS OF COMMENT
(âPROBLEMâ?): This is a word now used indiscriminately. Its use in mathematics is valid where terms and methods are very precisely defined. In the current instance, it suggests or implies that the quantity of water available is the issue; it is not. It also suggests or implies that the [immediate] difficulties are technical in the engineering sense. They are not. (They are technical in the medical or public health sense). It also implies that the difficulties were unforeseeable or even unique. They were not and are not. It also suggests or implies that the consequences of the difficulties are the difficulties. This diverts attention from the issue. In the current instance the mass poisoning of the people of Galway is a consequence of the issue, the issue being the neglect of public health by the Minister and the sanitary authorities and their dereliction of their legal duties.
(âSUPPLYâ?) Use of this word in association with âPROBLEMâ? renders the use of âPROBLEMâ? even more inexact. There is not and there was not any bar to supplying water; the obligation was to deliver clean water.
(âPROBLEMâ?) The second use of this word illustrates its elasticity. In its second use it refers to something other than what has happened. Instead it alludes to what the Minister and the sanitary authorities might do in the future. It also carries a suggestion or implication that they may not wish to, or be able to, do those things in the future to which they allude.
(âACKNOWLEDGEDâ?) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) gives the following meanings for this word: Admit the truth of; own (person etc. to be something); own to knowing, take notice of; recognize the authority or claims of; recognize in legal form; express appreciation of; announce receipt of; reward (a service. In the current instance therefore the Minister seems to be alluding to a claim for credit by the HSE and the local authorities to have protected public health; he may also be alluding to his public statement that he would âknock heads togetherâ? and that the Mayor of Galway City was not fit to hold his job, implying (at most) that he was wrong in so expressing himself, but possibly also grudgingly admitting to his own responsibilities for the situation. The admission lacks force, given the effort to turn it into a demand for credit, and evade a full admission of responsibility.
(âINâ?) If the teacher is informed that ââ¦the dog ate my homeworkâ¦â?, clearly, the homework was done; the effort was made. If the effort is alluded to in terms ââ¦effortâ¦ in doing the homeworkâ?, there is an implied recognition that, sure enough, the homework was done and the dog ate it. If however, the effort is alluded to in terms ââ¦effortâ¦ to do the homeworkâ?, there is no recognition, implied or expressed that the homework was done. In fact there is an implied refusal to recognise that the homework was done. In the current instance, the Minister is therefore claiming that the HSE and the local authorities did protect public health in the affected area. This is unsustainable, unless it is a reference to the advice to boil the water from the public supply before drinking it. If it is, why not say so?
(âPACKAGEâ?) It is said that there are good goods in small parcels. More importantly, the contents of a parcel cannot be known until the parcel is opened. In the current instance there was no parcel or âPACKAGEâ?, other than a metaphorical one. Here the function of the metaphor was to obscure not to make clear. Use of âPACKAGEâ? effectively avoids the need to specify the âmeasuresâ?.
(âDISCUSSEDâ?) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) gives the following relevant meanings for this word: Examine by argument, debate. So, the Minister talked about the issue.
(âIN TERMS OFâ?) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) gives the following relevant meaning for this word: Word used to express a definite conception esp. in particular branch of study etc. as technical, scientific, law, _, in âs of (in the language peculiar to). The phrase used by the Minister is, in the current instance, made referable to ââ¦solutionsâ?. This means that what the Minister talked about was â solutions.
(âIMPACTâ?) This means âeffectâ?.
(âDIFFICULTIESâ?) See (âPROBLEMâ?) above.
(âOUTBREAKâ?) What is this a reference to? What broke out? From where did it break out? It could be a reference to an âoutbreakâ? of illness, but it is probably a reference to the parasite Cryptosporidium. So, the Minister thinks it was collected somewhere and broke out of that place. Could that have been the sanitary authoritiesâ sewage treatment works? Under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher, any [person] who brings onto his land and collects thereon anything that, if it escapes, will cause damage, is strictly liable for the damage.
(âWITHIN A MATTER OF WEEKSâ?) There are 52 weeks in a year; there are 260 weeks in 5 years and 520 weeks in 10 years. Take your pick.
(âPHASED OUTâ?) This does not mean âclosed downâ?.
(âDEMAND MANAGEMENTâ?) This is a notion from micro economics. It postulates a relationship between âsupplyâ? and âdemandâ?. What is being suggested is rationing.
(âEXAMINEDâ?) Rationing will be applied, unless the political cost is too high.
(âPROBLEMâ?) This is not the same âproblemâ? referred to earlier. It is something different. It seems it is a reference to lack of resources to remedy the pollution of the public water supply.
(âCONSIDEREDâ?) See âDISCUSSEDâ? above. The Department has not yet discussed the Councilâs application, but it will do so.
(âAPPROACHEDâ?) Strictly, this means, âdraw nearâ?. Here it probably means, âmake overtures or proposals toâ?. The overtures seem to have been made already, to the immediate benefit of the Irish Times which has sold a full page advertisement to the effect that, inter alia, the HSE and the local authorities are working tirelessly [to rectify the situation]
(âEXCEPTIONALâ?) This means unusual. What is usual on the occasion of a mass poisoning?
(âCURRENTLYâ?) This is an excellent choice of word. The Minister has eschewed the Americanism âpresentlyâ?, which means âin the near futureâ?
(âPACKAGEâ?) This is a different âpackageâ? to the âPACKAGEâ? referred to above. This time it means an assembly of machinery and processes to treat the water.
(âSHOULDâ?) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) gives the following meaning for this word: see shall. This demonstrates the inadequacy of Dictionaries compiled in the United Kingdom. They fail to address the meaning of words in Ireland. Where a person in the UK might say âshallâ?, a person in Ireland might say âwillâ?. In the UK the former is often a forecast; the latter is often a declaration of purpose. In Ireland the meanings are, often, reversed. In the Ministerâs statement we are left unsure whether he is saying what ought to happen or what probably will happen. He is definitely not saying something will happen.
(âFASTTRACK) This normally means âexpediteâ?. It implies that the protection of public health is not normally a matter of expedition.
(âADVANCEMENTâ?) This is a redundant word in the context, but unhappily for the Minister, unlike the word âprogressâ?, it implies that the installation of a public drinking water Treatment Plant might languish in a stationary mode, which âprogressâ? would not so imply.
(âOVERâ?) â¬555 million is âoverâ? â¬21 million, as is every figure in between. In short, we do not know the correct figure.
(âALLOW FORâ?) This phrase renders conditional the meaning of the sentence preceding it. The â¬27.4 million is not just for the cost of the Tuam requirements; it includes the cost of additional capacity to meet the needs of Galway City.
(âACKNOWLEDGEDâ?) See ACKNOWLEDGED above. There is here an implication that someone was in denial about the [claimed] benefits of the Programme. Who denied it; the local authorities?
(âCOULDâ?) This renders conditional the implied claim that the Programme will deliver benefit to Galway. The condition is that, other things being equal, benefits will accrue. What are those other things? Why the uncertainty?
(âDELIVERYâ?) This means âcompletionâ?, which implies lack of completion, which raises the question; what were you doing before now?
(âPROJECTâ?) The Minister did not define this word, other than to, seemingly, refer to a nationwide Programme relating to water services. Only he can effect progress on such a Programme.
(âISSUEâ?) The Minister used the plural of this word. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) gives the following relevant meaning for this word: Point in question, esp. (Law) between contending parties in action, as â of fact (when fact is denied), – of law (when application of law is contested). All of this implies that there is disagreement on many questions. Should the Minister not specify what the disagreements are and who is the disagreeable person?
(âCLOSELYâ?) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) gives no meaning for this word. It appears to be a neologism. It may carry an implication of the grappling of combatants. Who is the source of the combat?
(âDECLINEâ?) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) gives the following relevant meaning for this word: Sinking, gradual loss of vigour or excellence, decay, deterioration; phthisis, consumption; fall in price; setting, last part of course, (of sun, life, etc.) This means that authorities are implying that the test of clean water is a reduction (not cessation) of illness. There must be a better test.