Water contamination risk for 800k people, EPA warns

by Caroline O’Doherty, originally posted on April 21, 2016


Water supplies serving more than 800,000 people are at risk of contamination and in need of urgent investment, the Environmental Protection Agency has warned.

The numbers affected have risen by 21,000 since the end of last year despite progress by Irish Water in tackling long-running problems in counties Roscommon and Dublin throughout the year.

David Flynn, programme manager with the EPA, said: “There has been a reduction but 800,000 is far too many and it’s really a case now of having to get sustained investment to bring the water network up to what would be an acceptable standard.”

Some 40,000 people served by 11 local supplies are currently on boil water notices or other restrictions, according to the EPA’s latest Remedial Action List published yesterday. The remainder could face similar issues at any time.

New to the boil water list is Whitegate in east Cork where restrictions came into effect in February, disrupting more than 10,000 people. The list shows Irish Water has yet to submit its plans for addressing the problem.

Irish Water is already facing legal action by the EPA for failing to comply with directions to resolve problems at Carraroe, Co Galway where 4,700 people are on boil water notices due to cryptosporidium contamination. The case is due before the courts next month.

Several other directions issued in relation to other supplies in recent years have also been breached and Mr Flynn said the EPA would prosecute if necessary.

The EPA first compiled the remedial list in 2008 and 457 separate water supplies have featured on it at one time or another with the number of people potentially at risk peaking at 1.2m. While the number of supplies listed has fallen to 119, the population affected remains extensive because some supplies involved are very large such as the Cork City Water Supply which serves 106,000 and is tagged as needing “significant improvements” to ensure a safe and secure supply.

Irish Water said 57 water supplies had been removed from the remedial list in the past two years and it was committed to removing 29 more by the end of this year.

Mark Macaulay, head of water supply strategy, said €2bn would be invested in improving drinking water by 2021 and the ultimate plan was to make the list “redundant”. “Drinking water quality across the country has been seriously compromised by a systematic failure in how water services have been planned, delivered and funded over several decades,” he said.

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