The rescue of a 94-year-old woman from her bed, surrounded by fast rising flood water, was described by angry residents from Dunkitt, Kilmacow, at a meeting of Kilkenny County Council’s Piltown Electoral Area Committee in Newrath last week.
Local resident Michael Walsh told how he was awakened at 7 am on November 19 last and went downstairs to find his elderly mother‘s bed surrounded by flood water. The distressed woman was carried upstairs, the Fire Brigade was alerted and she was taken to safety by means of a “raft stretcher”.
An ambulance waiting beyond the waters of the flash flood brought her to St Patrick’s Hospital in Waterford, where she was detained for several weeks. The woman and her son, who lived all their lives in Dunkitt, have been homeless since the flood.
She is now a patient in a private nursing home while her son is living in rented accommodation and their personal possessions are in a suitcase.
Local carpenter John Dempsey said his house was destroyed by the flood. He could no longer work at his trade following heart bypass surgery some years ago and depended on rent from the house in question as part of his weekly income.
The committee was told by Michael Walsh and John Dempsey that in their opinion the main cause of the flood was a major landfill carried out across the main Waterford to Kilkenny Road beside The Nightcap Pub in 2003.
Prior to 2003 the surface water under Dunkitt Railway Bridge flowed beside the rail line and then crossed through culverts near the grotto to low-lying land where it flowed freely down to the Blackwater River without obstruction.
But Kilkenny County Council allowed the landfill by way of a permit and specified that a pipeline be installed to maintain the flow of water. During a recent inspection the pipe outflow appeared to be operating at only 50%, which indicated a blockage.
When fears of possible water blockages and flooding were expressed by local resident in 2003 they received a “frosty reception” and their concerns were ignored by the County Council.
The two men said they believed that the original route for the flood water through the culverts down to the Blackwater River should be excavated and restored to the pre-2003 position. They called on the Council for support and said repair work on their houses could not start until the flooding problem in the area had been solved.
The Dunkitt deputation pointed out that Kent’s Pub was flooded for the first time in living memory and was now closed. A local man who went for a pint at night was unable to get back into his house when faced by the flash flood.
Another deputation from Ballinacurragh, Kilmacow, consisting of husband and wife Paul and Barbara Scannell and a neighbour Brendan Hoban, complained that their homes were also flooded on November 19 last.
The Scannells stated that they had moved out of their home and were now in alternative accommodation. They were not willing to take a gamble and redecorate their home until they got a guarantee the flooding problem had been solved. They said they were paying rent and a mortgage and would not be able to afford to send their daughter to university.
Mr Hoban said he filled sand bags with the help of neighbours in a desperate attempt to keep back the flood waters and they pumped 28,000 gallons of water from around the house. He said he had been living in his house for 34 years and was never flooded but now there had been four floods in two months. Run-off water from farmland was flowing into a nearby partly filled-in quarry. The Council gave him no help and he was now taking a gamble and was redecorating his house at a cost of €23,000.
“When you are going to bed at night and rain is lashing down just think of us because we will not be sleeping”, he said.
Council Chairman Michael O’Brien said it was “the luck of God” that there had not been a fatality in the floods. In order for people to have confidence in a solution to the problem, it would have to be tackled by professional consultants.
Cllr Eamon Aylward (FF) said it was a shame to see the condition of the houses which were destroyed by the floods.
Area Engineer Denis Lawlor said it had been suggested that the construction of the new motorway changed surface water drainage patterns in the Dunkitt area and exacerbated periodic flooding in the area.
The National Roads Authority was arranging for the appointment of an independent engineering consultant to assess the merits of the claims and the Council must await the findings, he said.
The Council was liaising with Iarnoid Eireann with a view to affecting maintenance works on the culverts passing through lands immediately downstream of the affected houses at Dunkitt Bridge. It was clear that elements of that drainage system were in need of maintenance but it might not be the sole cause of flooding.
A recent camera study of a pipeline drain revealed that it had partially collapsed or was restricted. Further investigations were due to be carried out by the Council but the local authority had no liability or funds for further works, he said.
At Ballinacurragh the Council proposed to provide a pipe from the junction of the Charlestown Road back towards the south. The water would be piped across the road into the larger of the local quarries. A surface water pipe already discharged at that location and the size would be increased to adequately cater for surface water. A series of gullies were to be placed along the pipeline to intercept surface water from the road surface. The anticipated cost of the work was €35,000.
Mr Lawlor said the Council was seeking funding from the OPW for flood relief works at Dungooly, Mooncoin. Watercourses were to be cleared all the way to the outfall at the River Suir. The work was anticipated to cost €23,000.
Work has already been undertaken to reduce flooding at the New Road and Chapel St, Mooncoin. The dyke taking water back towards Grange had been opened as well as the dyke along the New Road. This appeared to have reduced the flooding and further work was proposed at the bottom of the Durnane Road to increase the pipe capacity. The water pipe crossing the N 24 in Mooncoin was to be increased in size. The work was anticipated to cost €130,000.