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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
Irish city crippled by water emergency
By Stephen Fottrell
BBC News, Galway

Dozens of people have been made ill by the bug
A major water crisis has left scores of people ill and tens of thousands at risk from contamination in a west of Ireland city.

Galway's water supply has been hit by an outbreak of the parasite cryptosporidium, with up to 170 people now confirmed to have been affected by a serious stomach bug as a result.

The outbreak has severely affected homes and businesses in Ireland's third-biggest city and residents have been warned that the crisis could last for months.

Doctors have warned that the parasite could be life threatening, especially to young children, the elderly and people with low immune systems.

Parents' concerns

Tests found that the city's water supply contained nearly 60 times the safe limit of cryptosporidium pollution.

Residents have already been unable to drink or use water for food preparation for weeks and have complained that no free clean water has been made available by the authorities.

Sarah Doran
Sarah Doran is worried about the protracted water crisis
Parents with young families have also expressed real concerns and demanded action.

"It's not right, we shouldn't have to pay for our water when the local supply is polluted," said Galway resident Sarah Doran.

"I'm spending up to three euros a day on bottled water. If this goes on for nine months, as we've been told it could, that's going to add up.

"People just won't be able to afford it."

Galway City Council has told the BBC News website that they have been advised by the health authorities that tankers of free water could create further health problems, by increasing the risk of spreading bacteria.

The mayor of Galway, Niall O Brolchain, has called on the Irish government to provide more funding to upgrade water treatment services.

However, Irish Environment Minister Dick Roche said that the government had already made 21m euros available for such projects in Galway, but the local council had failed to make use of the money.

'Warning for years'

Business leaders have also expressed worries over the impact the crisis will have on what is traditionally the beginning of the tourist season in the west of Ireland.

Bottled water
Galway residents are splashing out on bottled water
One hotelier said it was costing him up to 2,000 euros a week to provide bottled water for his guests, and he was now being forced to install his own filtration system.

However, Galway GP Martin Daly warned that filtration was not the answer.

"The newest water treatment plant we have is 40 years old," he said.

"People have been warning for years about this. Filtration is not the answer. We need to go to the source of the contamination to solve it."

Holy water hit in Irish bug scare
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