Green Party calls for drinking water points on greenway

Westmeath Green Party councillors, Louise Heavin and Hazel Smyth, have urged the council to install drinking water points along the Old Rail Train Greenway and at “appropriate locations” in local towns.

Cllr Heavin's call was enthusiastically supported by her fellow councillors in Athlone (Cllr Smyth later made her call at a meeting of the Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District), but local authority officials were more cautious, saying there was a need to consider the cost and feasibility of the proposal.

Speaking at the September meeting of the Athlone Moate Municipal District, Cllr Heavin described the greenway as a fantastic amenity which was being used by locals, community groups, and tourists, and she felt drinking water points would be a positive addition to it.

She also said she’d like to see drinking water points installed in towns to help cut down on single-use plastics and support people who were travelling by means other than by car.

“It would help support people who want to run, walk, or cycle around our urban centres. It will also lessen our reliance on bottled water, which in itself is harmful to our health,” she said.

The council’s written reply to her motion suggested it might take time for such water points to be installed.

“Before embarking on this initiative, it would be appropriate for the council to consider the feasibility of the proposal in terms of public demand and the cost of establishing these water points and their ongoing maintenance,” the council stated.

Cllr Vinny McCormack (FF) said the many users of the greenway would greatly appreciate the addition of drinking water points – and toilet facilities in certain locations also.

His party colleague, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, indicated he was slightly concerned by the local authority’s response to Cllr Heavin’s motion.

“The points where (drinking water) could be provided are fairly obvious, and I think this is something we should be working towards sooner rather than later,” he said.

Fine Gael’s Cllr Tom Farrell added that there were “some lovely old wells” along the greenway and that the landowners might be willing to help facilitate people’s access to “lovely spring water” there.

Council director of services, Barry Kehoe, said the council supported the idea of drinking water points, “but it’s probably not as simple as it looks”.

He said issues such as the cost of connections to the water supply, and the cost of the dispensers themselves, would have to be investigated.

“In the past we have had some public water points around the town which we’ve had to take out because of people leaving taps running, and because of vandalism,” he said.

He added that Cllr Farrell’s idea of using natural wells was problematic because the quality of the water might be inconsistent and the council would need to be able to “stand over” the quality of the water coming from the dispensers.

Mullingar Kinnegad District

Cllr Heavin’s party colleague, Cllr Hazel Smyth, had a notice of motion on the agenda for the September meeting of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad, to be held on Monday of this week, asking the council to put in place publicly accessible water drinking fountains along the greenway and around the centre of Mullingar in advance of Fleadh Cheoil na Éireann next year.

(Reports from the meeting in next week’s Westmeath Examiner.)

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