VIDEO: ‘The real issue here is that no one gave a damn about the Village’... Community anger as flood clean up continues

On first glance entering the quiet Village Estate on Monday afternoon there was little to indicate the destructive forces that had swept through the 36 single storey red brick homes dotted throughout the leafy Bettystown enclave on Saturday.

High tide on the east coast is always a worry for these residents but, high tide coupled with the monsoon-like rains falling on already swollen local streams and rivers could mean only one thing and that dreadful, dreaded thing happened at the weekend. There was no escape.

As you moved further into the 20-year-old estate, you began to see the fallout. While the water had disappeared, the devastation it caused was fully visible. Mattresses, bedding, lengths of wood flooring, TVs, kitchen appliances, children's toys and sodden rolls of carpet lay in miserable piles outside each home.

Windows and doors were flung open, allowing as much air as possible flow through the properties in a bid to alleviate the dank, damp smell coming up from floors and walls breached by flood waters that are now contaminated with raw sewage.

The dedicated Meath branch of the Irish Red Cross arrived on site to assist residents but it was hard not to feel this small community was very much alone, in grief, trying to fend for themselves in a world that had been turned upside down by something that should have been preventable. And for that, you could sense the anger of the people of the Village. They want answers and they want action.

Patricia O'Sullivan wasn't home when calls started filtering through about the disaster unfolding on her property. In fact, she was 5,000 miles away trying to "firefight" from New York while a “hero” neighbour, Karl, valiantly tried to save her home from the elements. "I was on the phone straight away to a local councillor from New York, explaining that the minute the council starts to pump water (at Northlands), we're in danger."

Patricia is referring to the flood relief systems in place in the newer Northlands Estate with its giant holding tanks and pumps designed to protect the homes there.

The Village has no such flood safety measures.

"I was getting video, pictures sent to my phone every five minutes and at one stage I knew that my house was under water," continues Patricia. "There are so many people in this estate that are now homeless and have lost everything they have and we want someone to come in and take accountability for this.

“There is a lady up the road with a mother with Alzheimers, who had to put her into a home for respite because she can't keep her in the house. The sewage came up with the water so any soft furnishings, anything on the ground is now gone."

Patricia, battling fatigue and jetlag described how everybody was evacuated from the estate. "It got to the stage where even the fire services struggled to get in. Everybody took what they could in their cars and left."

Patricia, who is also a member of the Bettystown Development Association says some people opted to stay in their homes without electricity as they simply had nowhere else to go. On Sunday, the waters receded with electricity slowly restored to homes where residents were present.

She shows the Meath Chronicle her flood ravaged home with humidifiers in the hallway airing rooms stripped of furniture and flooring. All her bedrooms are destroyed while her living room is stacked with bedding and any furniture that could be saved. She hasn't ventured into the sodden garden where sheds remain unopened. "I'm not ready to look in there yet," she says.

"I have been here for 12 years and I have pleaded and begged and no one in authority has supported us in getting a solution to this problem. We were promised a flood defence system three years ago and shown very fancy designs and they never followed through. Well, they're too late now, we told them it was going to happen and it has happened.

"I would hope that the authorities will be on this site tomorrow (Tuesday) and starting work on the flood defences here tomorrow. Get your finger out and do your job."

Another neighbour, Ian Ferguson wasn't home when the Meath Chronicle visited yesterday. His devastated sister Laura was there surveying the damage however, and she explained how the nightmare unfolded for her brother, his two young children aged 16 and 12 and their two dogs.

"Ian left for work at 5.30am on Saturday morning and didn't return until 5.30pm after bringing his daughter horse riding. When he got here he couldn't get past the Village Hotel. He had to wade down through the waters to try and rescue his two dogs who were in the house with sewage coming up through the floors. The dogs are now sick from that as a result."

"There's not a room in the house that's not affected, because it's a bungalow. Every single thing that was on the floor has to go because we don't know what was in that water and how contaminated it was."

Laura hopes the response of local public representatives and council officials won't just be for show and that action will be taken to fix the problem of the flood threat once and for all.

"Lessons need to be learned here. They've known all along. There are houses going in everywhere here and they have all got their flood defences. Where are ours? There's nothing here to defend us.

Laura says she doesn't know what is needed to begin cleaning the houses of contamination and sewage residue left behind after the flooding event. "What chemicals are we to use, how do we clean the floors, walls, we need help here."

One of the worst affected dwellings was No. 10, home to Roddy Duddy, a 74-year-old pensioner currently battling leukaemia and who was one of the first in the estate to know that they were in big trouble.

"We have a sewer pump on site here and I've always looked after it for fear of flooding and when I went over to check it on Saturday morning at 9.30am, the pump was working but the water was everywhere, it was coming up through manholes on the road, the whole system was totally backing up.

Roddy describes how the water first reached the step to his patio door before rising up along the glass door and eventually breaching his home.

"We had six inches of water right through the entire house, there was no time to get anything up. The fire service was here but there was nothing they could do because there was nowhere for them to pump any water."

"The house is destroyed, I'm not trying to be dramatic about it, but it is. The more stuff we took out the more damage we could see. I'm in bad health, I have leukaemia and I'm on an infusion so I have a weak immune system and this is sewer water around us. Everything has to be disinfected, what do we do?

"The real issue here is no one gave a damn about the village".


UPDATE: 9th August 9.30am

OPW Statement

Saturday Flood Event

On Saturday 5th August last the Office of Public Works (OPW) were requested by Meath County Council to provide assistance in the Mornington area. Meath County Council requested the OPW to provide one 8 inch mobile pump to be placed at Lady’s Finger Bridge and a number of OPW operatives attended on site to set up the pumping operation.

There are additional works proposed for the Mornington Flood Relief Scheme and in the coming days the OPW will engage with Meath County Council and OPW’s design engineers, RPS, to determine the exact nature of the flood event of the 5th August, the associated mechanism(s) of flooding and, subsequent to that, will determine what measures can be incorporated into the design of any proposed works to mitigate against future flooding risks in the Bettystown and Mornington area.

Mornington Flood Relief Scheme

The Mornington Flood Relief Scheme, consented to under the Arterial Drainage Acts, 1945 and 1995, was substantially completed in 2013, providing protection to some 162 properties. This flood relief scheme has a design standard of 1% AEP (annual exceedance probability or chance) for a fluvial flood event and 0.5% AEP for a coastal flood event. The OPW directly managed the construction of the existing flood defences and funded the development of these defences.

The Mornington FRS is maintained annually by the OPW East Region Drainage Maintenance Section. Maintenance involves silt and vegetation removal from circa 3km of channel, and vegetation management on circa 5km of embankment. Maintenance is generally carried out in Q4 of each year.