Over 100 Irish drinking water sources need remedial work, says regulator
Over 100 drinking water supplies in Ireland still need remedial work in order to make them safe and remove the need for boil water notices and water restrictions, Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.
The regulator’s Drinking Water Report for 2015, released yesterday, said that 108 of the 962 drinking water supplies in the Republic are “at risk” supplies and require remedial action. These supplies serve 830,000 people.
Of these, 37 supplies lack adequate treatment to prevent Cryptosporidium entering drinking water, which can cause serious illness. Meanwhile, the report found that 35 boil water notices were in place during 2015 for all or part of the year, affecting nearly 40,000 people; and there have already been significantly more in 2016, revealed the EPA.
“So far this year, 86,000 people have had to boil their water to make it safe,” said Gerard O’Leary, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement. “This is more than twice as many as last year. Without investment to address the deficiencies in the supplies on the EPA’s Remedial Action List, this type of water restriction will continue to occur.”
Sample testing during 2015 found that 99.9% of samples complies with microbiological standards and 99.4% complied with chemical standards. However, E.coli was detected in one in seven supplies, compared to one in eight in 2014. Trihalomethane limits were breached in 59 of the 962 supplies.
The EPA listed the priority actions for Irish Water in the coming year as eliminating long-term boil water notices, implementing action programmes for the ‘at risk’ supplies (particularly those breaching trihalomethane limits) and removing lead contamination risk from public buildings and homes.
Darragh Page, Senior Inspector of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement concluded: “Irish Water needs to accelerate the investment in remedial works at supplies listed on the EPA’s Remedial Action List so that the threat of long-term water restrictions is eliminated. Where avoidable delays have been caused to these planned upgrade works, the EPA has and will continue to take enforcement action.”
Responding to the report, Irish Water said it is committed to investing €2 billion by 2021 to improve Ireland’s drinking water. Its key initiatives include a National Disinfection Strategy to protect against the risk of E.coli and Cryptosporidium – which has already involved 288 local Water Safety Plans – a Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan (published in July) and a national pesticides strategy. It pointed out that many boil water notices imposed since the formation of Irish Water in 2014 were due to Irish Water monitoring and testing programmes aimed at making things better in the long run. As of this month, a total of 7,144 people are on boil water notices compared to 16,003 in 2014.
Jerry Grant, Managing Director of Irish Water, said: “Irish Water as a national utility has developed the capability to take a nationwide approach to protecting and safeguarding drinking water for communities. As a country we are lucky to have many safe and reliable sources of fresh raw water that we can treat and use but many factors including soil, rock types, how we use our land, or even very heavy rainfall can negatively affect the quality of our drinking water. Being able to turn on a tap to get clean safe water is something that many of us take for granted. However, this takes considerable investment and work at every stage of a very complex treatment, monitoring and testing process. We have replaced an ad-hoc approach with a more systematic and coherent programme combined with increased investment and enhanced operation."
He added, “This EPA Drinking Water Compliance Report clearly shows that the strategy, investment and implementation from Irish Water is having a very positive outcome for communities across the country. It is essential that people have confidence in their drinking water and know that Irish Water is moving swiftly and decisively in cooperation with EPA and HSE wherever those high standards are not met. That’s why this report from the EPA is so important. Irish Water welcomes having an independent agency reviewing the work that we do to safeguard drinking water. This ensures the work of Irish Water is audited and held to the highest standards.”
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