The Glore river in County Mayo is a place very close to my heart. I have spent time at the Glore Mill and walked the labyrinths. I have stood and looked for fish in the river and seen the flickering shadow of a tail, the dappled shape still as a stone and then gone, the sudden joyful flash and splash of a fish rising for flies in the evening.
On Friday, there was a major incident at the local waste water treatment plant. The river turned white. The next day, they say over 500 fish were found floating belly up in the river. I would guess (as would Ray Cooper, the man who owns the mill, and who is currently away but has seen this happen once before) the number is closer to the thousands. On top of which, of course, invertebrates, small fish, birds and mammals alongside the river at the time — voles, rabbits badgers, otters — will also have crawled off to die. Herons and wagtails. Nesting sand martins. We will not count the water boatmen or the eels. We don’t see them. We know so little about the systems that interweave with the water. We sluice our waste into the river. It was an accident. We, the public, don’t know what was released into the water. Will we ever? Will there be an investigation? And if there is, will we be privy to the results, in language a layman can understand?
Human error. Or a glitch in the system. A fault in the programming. And the white substance? Bleach is not white but anything that is a strong disinfectant or cleaning agent tends to have a bleaching element. I’m guessing because I don’t expect to hear the truth. I hope I’m wrong. Here’s what I hope happens:
I hope there is a spokesman from the plant who tells us exactly what happened, when, and by whom, in language we can understand, without obfuscation or passing the buck. I hope that this person then announces that the CEO and the entire board of Irish Water, ultimately responsible for the effective running of the (largely state owned) company, is fired, and imprisoned. And fined. I hope the person responsible for this makes a full statement on what they did and why and that they and any personnel in the plant itself are investigated and if they have gaps in their awareness of what the implications are of what they have done, they be rapidly demoted and that the next people who fill these posts have some serious training in the systems they…