Residents of Laois town fear repeat flood from silt filled river

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Residents of Laois town fear repeat flood from silt filled river

The partially blocked Whitehorse River in Mountrath, Laois.

Homeowners in a Laois town who were flooded in 2017, are concerned because another summer has passed without the river next to them being cleared.

The Whitehorse river flows through Mountrath. Laois County Council cleared one part and one bridge but a town centre stretch has not been touched since a major job in 2008.

The river is filling with grassy mounds of silt. A section will be cleaned next year, says Laois County Council's water section.

“The Council is aware of sedimentation in the Whitehorse River downstream of the bridge in Mountrath and intends to carry out work to address the issue under its 2019 programme, subject to consents and approvals as required for listed sites,” an official said.

Upstream of that bridge is Stillbrook with 20 homes near St Fintan’s GAA grounds, a health centre and Scoil Bhride NS. They all got blocked in by floods in November 2017, with children carried out of the school.

One lady in her 90s was carried in her neighbour’s arms at 3.30am. Water came up 3ft in her cottage.

Elderly couple Johnny and Mary Wallace are very worried.

“You are always afraid. You are living on your nerves, when you are not insured because it costs you money every time. I’m 80 next year, my wife is not in great health, we have a floodgate we put up, but you can’t climb over it in comfort at our age,” he told the Leinster Express.

“This was my father's homeplace. I can’t remember when they ever cleaned this part. I want them to clean it up, put depth back into it, it is nearly grown in. They opened it up at Rushin bridge to let more water down to us,” he said.

Residents at Stillbrook, Donal Doheny and Johnny Wallace, beside the river next to their homes.

Resident Donal Doheny blames environmental laws.

“I raise the alarm every time with the emergency services. This whole place is ridiculous. There have been huge reports done to no avail. The fish and the snails in Kilkenny have more rights,” he said, referring to the protected freshwater mussel in the River Nore downstream.

“The GAA field is the helicopter lift for emergencies, nobody can get in if there is a flood. We are cocooned in here, we can’t get out. We have to park in the churchyard before heavy rain just in case, it’s common sense gone mad,” he said.

Cllr James Kelly says he has been trying to get work done.

“While it is sad for Mountmellick and Portarlington who had a catastrophe, all the funding went to them, the council has to look at other areas,” he said.

A major repair job was done by Laois County Council on Cannon Delaney Bridge in Mountrath this year. It had floors replaced, scour issue under piers repaired, masonry reconstruction, repointing of structure and sediment removed by direct labour.