News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 21st November 2014

Half of homes in Ireland will be able to beat the water meter


Irish Water boss says bills can fall below capped level

Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Irish Water chief John Tierney

Half of homeowners can ‘beat the meter’ and reduce bills below capped levels by making simple lifestyle changes, Irish Water boss John Tierney has insisted.

In his first major interview since the water crisis erupted, Mr Tierney said Irish Water was needed to drive investment and improve water quality and wastewater treatment across the country, and that cutting consumption by just 15% would enable households to benefit from lower bills.

And he revealed that metering staff have been followed home and assaulted, he said it was unlikely that people who refused to pay would be taken to court, and he endorsed a decision to scrap staff bonuses.

It is the first time that the boss of the beleaguered commercial semi-state has spoken publicly about the internal operations of Irish Water since last January when he gave an infamous interview to RTE’s ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’.

Mr. Tierney said that householders could reduce their bills below a cap imposed by Government this week.

A single person will pay €160 a year, while a household with two or more adults will face a maximum charge of €260.00:00 / 02:10

But the Government will also provide a €100 additional payment, called a ‘Water Conservation Grant’ which will be issued by the Department of Social Protection. This can be used to pay the water bill, or invest in water-saving devices such as water butts or aerators to reduce water flows from taps.

Mr. Tierney said that data from metered homes suggested that consumption had already reduced by 10% across the capital. The meters allow the company to measure consumption, but also to identify leaks on the customer’s property which would be addressed under the ‘first fix free’ policy, he said.

The company estimated that one in three metered customers would receive bills below the capped rates. A reduction in consumption of 15%, or 20 to 35 litres per day, would mean that 50% of metered customers could reduce their bill to an amount below the cap.

This would help repay the €540m cost of meter installation by 2029.

“One of the benefits of the metering programme is it shows changes in consumption patterns,” he said.

“In terms of the metering, we initially believed consumption could fall by 10pc to 15%. We have seen lower levels in Dublin since October 1, but we can’t make assumptions in that regard.

“We estimate that between change in consumer behaviour and eradication of leaks on the customer side, the metering cost will be repaid in 15 years.

“We believe with a 15% reduction, half the country will beat the meter. Even simple things like a water butt are very effective for external use for the garden or car.”

Despite the introduction of the capped charge which will remain in place until at least the end of 2018, Mr Tierney said the meters were needed.

“The metering still has significant benefits from the point of view of the information it’s giving us on the system.

“We have huge information about consumption patterns and behaviour, leakage and in terms of the child’s allowance. And in terms of beating the cap.

“There is an incentive to conserve water and the Government has balanced that with the issue of affordability. You’ve certainly given simplicity and people will be able to see their consumption… and that will help them beat the meter.”

John Tierney’s view is? A relatively young staff member had a photograph put up online and the word ‘paedophile’ put with it now that’s pretty disturbing.”

Kelly does not want jail terms for water bill non-payment00:00 / 02:25

“20,000 people have refused to take the letter by saying ‘no thanks’ to the postman.”

“The scale of the problem is greater than anyone would have expected. It will probably be into 2016 before we have a complete picture.”

“We don’t envisage a situation where we have to take people to court.”

“We have had big issues and have big issues to resolve.”

“There has been a huge focus on charges, which is understandable, but we want to demonstrate to people that when they do pay they will get value for money.”

“The pay at risk was always at the discretion of the company. This was an extremely difficult decision.”

HSE report shows €361m deficit to end of September


The number of emergency department admissions increased by 2% from January to September

The latest performance report from the Health Service Executive shows a deficit to the end of September of €361m, with the projected year-end overrun still predicted to be €510m.

The September report reflects the continuing trend seen in HSE reports in recent months, with further increases in waiting lists for outpatients and planned procedures.

From January to September, the number of emergency department admissions increased by 2%.

Demand for planned operations also rose by 17% or 8,700 cases.

Planned admissions are down 5% leading to longer waiting times for elective operations as a result of increased ED admissions.

The number of people in hospital beds whose acute care has ended and who are fit for discharge remains at around 750.

Compared with the August report, by the end of September, the number of people waiting over a year to be seen at outpatients increased by just over 5,000 to 46,600.

The number of adults waiting over eight months for a procedure is up 1,000 to 9,690.

The number of children waiting over 20 weeks for a procedure is up 181 to 1,930.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said the figures reflect rising activity and rising demand, with improvements in primary care and ambulance services, but ongoing problems in hospital services.

He said that work on the HSE Service Plan for 2015 is almost complete.

National group set up to tackle rising antibiotic resistance in Ireland


We are in danger of entering an era where simple infections become deadly again, doctors told.

“We are in danger of entering a post-antibiotic era,” the Department of Health’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan told an antibiotic awareness event at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin today.

In a bid to tackle the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals, the Department of Heath and Department of Agriculture have formed a new national joint committee for the first time.

Leaders from medical, veterinary and pharmaceutical professions gathered for the fourth annual antibiotic awareness event at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin today.

Speakers emphasised the rise in antimicrobial resistance in Ireland was one of the greatest potential threats to human and animal health with serious consequences.

The Department of Health’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said urgent and immediate action was needed to combat the antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“We are in danger of entering a post-antibiotic era,” he said.

“An era in which the dramatic falls in morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases we have witnessed are reversed and simple infections once again become killer diseases; an era in which medical procedures such as neonatal care, hip and joint replacements, organ transplants and cancer therapies become impossibly dangerous because of the risks of associated infections, which we cannot treat effectively.”

Speaking at the launch, Martin Blake, chief veterinary officer of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, said human and animal diseases were interconnected.

Mr Blake said setting up the National Interdepartmental Antimicrobial Resistance Consultative Committee was an important step towards ensuring the health of people, animals and the environment.

Dr Tony Cox, president of the The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said nursing home residents in Ireland were more than twice as likely to be on a antibiotic than any other European country.

“It’s a frightening and it is embarrassing to Ireland. We have to do better,” he said.

The 10 signs of diabetes you should really know about


Thousands of us have Type 2 diabetes and don’t even know it – an estimated 850,000 of us in fact.

Diabetes may be a lifelong condition, but it can be successfully managed (if you know you have it in the first place that is). A man checking his blood sugar levels (Thinkstock/PA)

The vast majority of the 3.7 millions UK suffers have Type 2, which is associated with weight and lifestyle, and sometimes genetic factors. In a nutshell, it occurs when the body can no longer make enough insulin (the hormone produced by the pancreas allowing us to use sugar) or the insulin isn’t doing it’s job properly.

Type 1, on the other hand tends mostly to develop during childhood, when, briefly speaking, a fault in the body causes insulin-producing cells to be destroyed.

When it comes to type 2, here’s what to look out for.

  1. Increased thirst 
  2. Blurred vision

If your vision isn’t as sharp as it used to be, you’re struggling to see fine details clearly and have more floaters than usual, it could be due to diabetes, as blood sugar disruptions may cause the eye’s lens to become dry or swollen.

  1. Extreme tiredness  
  2. Slow healing wounds  

If minor cuts, burns and grazes suddenly seem to take ages to heal, it could be a sign that something’s wrong, like a nutritional deficiency – or potentially diabetes. If not managed carefully, diabetes can lead to nerve damage and poor circulation, resulting in slower healing.

  1. Nausea and vomiting  

If you notice an increase in unexplained nausea and sickness, it could be a sign of Type 1 or 2 diabetes. Blood sugar fluctuations can disrupt the metabolism, which sometimes makes people feel sick.

  1. Needing to pee more  

If you’re going to the loo more often then usual, especially at night, it could be a sign.

  1. Dizziness

Dizziness can be a sign of diabetes, due to both low blood sugar and dehydration (brought on because diabetes can make people pee far more than usual). If dizzy spells continue for more than a day or two or last a long time, mention it to your doctor.

  1. Itching

Countless things can cause itching down below, from skin sensitivities and allergies to STIs. Another cause is thrush, or yeast infections, which are very common and easy to treat – and which can repeatedly strike if you have Type 2 diabetes.

  1. Unexplained weightloss  
  2. Family history and genetics. 

Diabetes UK clinical advisor Libby Dowling says: ”If you are over 40 (or over 25 if you’re South Asian), have a family member with diabetes or are overweight, then it’s important to go to your GP if you suspect you’re showing any symptoms.”

Lloyds Pharmacy also offer a free diabetes advice and testing service at participating stores, and Diabetes UK has an online tool for checking your Type 2 risk.

Converting Irish waste to energy is catching on, says the EPA


EPA warns of increasing reliance on exporting waste for treatment abroad

The Environmental Protection Agency says the change in waste handling is linked to recent landfill levies and increasing “recovery” – a term that includes recycling and the recovery of energy.

Less of the Republic’s residual waste is going to landfill and more is being used as an energy source, according to the latest figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the agency the change in waste handling is linked to recent landfill levies and increasing “recovery” – a term that includes recycling and the recovery of energy .

Residual or “black bin” waste is typically used as a fuel source for cement kilns and is used to generate electricity at Indaver Ireland’s waste-to-energy incinerator in Co Meath.

In waste management hierarchy, recovering energy from waste, usually by incineration, is more desirable than burying it in the ground.

The EPA said while there was a slight increase in the quantity of energy recovered from household waste in 2013, there was also an increasing reliance on exporting such waste for treatment abroad.

Dr Jonathan Derham, programme manager with the agency, said this represents a lost opportunity in terms of potential energy recovery and jobs for the State.

“This needs to be countered with national waste infrastructure to bring forward opportunities for the re-use of value-added material, and to create a circular economy,” he said.

There was also a slight increase in compostable waste from households and commercial premises which was treated at composting facilities in 2013. The increase included an 8 per cent rise in “brown bin” waste which is mainly food waste.

However, the agency said it expected a more significant increase in the volume of compostable waste in coming years following the roll out of brown bins to households on a phased basis from July 2013. The process is expected to be complete by July 2016.

According to Dr Derham the latest figures indicate a number of positive developments.

“In particular, the EPA welcomes the continued movement of residual waste away from landfill to energy recovery. However, an increasing reliance on the export of such waste is unsustainable” he said.

 has plan of city of the future that sinks into the ocean


An Japanese firm devises a plan for an Ocean Spiral community that descends nine miles to the seabed.

With dry land increasingly at a premium, a Japanese construction company has come up with a plan to sink a spiralling city into the depths of our oceans.

Each Ocean Spiral will be home to about 5,000 people, according to Shimizu Corp., with each structure also incorporating business and office facilities, hotel and entertainment facilities.

A blueprint for the city of the future was unveiled in Tokyo this week, with Shimizu confidently predicting that the first of its underwater cities would be ready for residents to move in as early as 2030.

At the surface, the city will have a vast floating dome that could be made watertight and retracted beneath the surface in bad weather.

Beneath the dome, the spiral structure would descend as much as 9 miles to the seabed, where an “earth factory” would produce methane from carbon dioxide by using micro-organisms, the company said.

The seabed could also be mined for rare earth minerals and metals.

Generators would create power by taking advantage of the difference in the temperature of sea water at varying depths, while undersea docking facilities would enable supplies to be delivered and research to be conducted.

Shimizu plans to build the Ocean Spiral from resin instead of concrete and to use industrial-scale three-dimensional printers to create the components.

The cost of developing the first undersea city has been estimated at 3 trillion yen (£16.24 billion), although the company says that subsequent versions will be significantly cheaper.

Shimizu has been working on the project with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and Tokyo University and believes it will take five years to build the first unit.

Shimizu has a reputation for blue-sky thinking in a country in which construction firms are traditionally conservative in their approaches to projects.


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