Further drinking water restrictions likely unless systems improve

Date released: Jan 20 2015, 12:05 AM

  

  • Monitoring of public drinking water quality in Ireland shows that:
    • 99.8 % of samples comply with microbiological limits.
    • 99.5 % of samples comply with chemical limits.
  • However, today, over 20,000 people - on 20 public water supplies - are affected by boil water notices.
  • At the start of 2015 there are 121 ‘at risk’ supplies on the EPA’s Remedial Action List.  These 121 supplies (serving almost 940,000 people) are the priority for improvement works.  (At the start of 2014, 140 supplies were on the List).
  • Improvements to disinfection systems, better management of water treatment and more investment in robust and resilient infrastructure is required.
  • Further water improvements are also required because of recent, more stringent standards for lead.

Commenting on the EPA Drinking Water Report 2013 released today, Mr. Gerard O’Leary, Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

Overall, the compliance rate in public supplies is good but this masks the specific and serious problems occurring in some supplies and the significant risk of future problems. Investment is needed to improve the supplies where people cannot use their water and to reduce the risk of other supplies failing to meet the required quality standards in the future.”

The report also shows that water quality in the private water supply sector lags significantly behind the quality in the public network. The EPA will be pressing local authorities to make greater use of the powers available to them under the drinking water regulations to drive improvements in water quality in the private water supply sector.

 

Some key findings of the 2013 report on the 978 public water supplies:

  • 99.82% of samples comply with microbiological parameters.
  • 99.51% of samples comply with chemical parameters.
  • 40 boil water notices and a further four water restrictions were issued.
  • E.coli was detected at least once in the 10 supplies, up 3 on 2012.
  • Trihalomethanes limits were exceeded in 61 supplies, down 35 on 2012.
  • 140 supplies were on the EPA’s Remedial Action List (RAL) at the end of 2013, this reduced to 121 by January 2015.
  • 16 directions were issued by the EPA in 2013.
  • More than half of supplies audited required disinfection system improvements.

Some key findings of the 2013 report on Private Water Supplies:

  • 97.53% of samples comply with microbiological parameters.
  • 99.57% of samples comply with chemical parameters.
  • E.coli detected at least once on 63 small private supplies, 32 private group water schemes and 1 public group water scheme.
  • Microbiological quality of private supplies remains inferior to public supplies.

Mr. David Flynn, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

 “The underlying causes of problems need to be addressed with improvements in disinfection systems, removal of lead pipes, improvements in water treatment management and by putting in place appropriate infrastructure to prevent future long-term water restrictions.”

He added that because of a more stringent lead standard for drinking water (since January 2014) the removal of lead pipes in the network should be a priority area for investment.

Mr Flynn concluded,

“The priorities for Irish Water are to improve the water supply system by:

  • Removing and preventing Boil Water Notices by improving disinfection systems.
  • Implementing a National Lead Strategy to deal with lead related water restrictions.
  • Optimising the treatment process to reduce trihalomethanes in water.
  • Prioritising EPA Remedial Action List schemes for improvement and investment, and
  • Protecting Sources and abstraction points by developing Drinking Water Safety Plans.”

 

The Drinking Water Report 2013 and the complete list of public water supplies currently on the Remedial Action List (RAL) (including details of the proposed remedial measures and associated timeframes) are available on the EPA website.

 Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

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