EPA issues legally binding Direction to Galway City Council

Date released: Sep 24 2008

On July 30th 2008 Galway City Council notified the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) of a failure to meet the lead parametric value in the Galway City public water supply, as required under drinking water legislation that came into effect in 2007.  The level of lead reported was 106 micrograms per litre (μg/l). (The lead standard in the Drinking Water Regulations is 25 μg/l.)

The Council indicated that the suspected cause of the failure was a lead service pipe and water main to the house where the sample was taken.  On July 31st 2008 the OEE requested the City Council to clarify the ownership of the lead service pipe, whether other properties were affected and whether they intended to replace the pipe work. 

On August 25th 2008, following receipt of a response from Galway City Council, the OEE requested the Council to:

  1. prepare a programme for the replacement of the pipe work,
  2. consult with the Health Service Executive and
  3. identify the extent of the problem. 

The Council responded on September 8th 2008 stating that it was determining the extent of works required and that the agreed approach would be forwarded to the EPA.
Following the receipt of additional lead results taken in August, the EPA took a decision to issue a Direction under Regulation 9(2) of the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations (No.2), 2007 to Galway City Council.  As required by this Regulation the Direction was agreed with the Health Service Executive.  The Direction issued on September 24th 2008.

The Direction requires Galway City Council to:

  1. Carry out a survey to determine the extent of lead piping in the distribution system and the population affected. 
  2. Include details of any lead tests carried out over the past four years and maps identifying the sections of the distribution system where elevated levels of lead were recorded.
  3. Identify all sections of the water supply distribution network in the City that have lead piping and are in the ownership of Galway City Council.
  4. Prepare an Action Programme to reduce or eliminate the risk of water not complying with the lead parametric value in the distribution network.
  5. Specify the remedial measures proposed and a timetable for the implementation of each of the remedial measures.

The EPA has directed Galway City Council to provide all the information referred to above by October 15th 2008 relating to this failure to meet the parametric value for lead.  Failure to comply with this Direction is an offence.  The EPA will continue to monitor and assess the situation in liaison with the Health Service Executive and will provide further updates as information becomes available.
The priority for the EPA is to ensure that adequate measures are put in place by Galway City Council, at the earliest possible date, to ensure that the effected areas have a consistently safe supply of drinking water. 

Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)
Notes to the Editor:

The Office of Environmental Enforcement is a dedicated office within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Advice from Galway City Council to consumers is available on their website at www.galwaycity.ie

Drinking Water Regulations
On the 8th March 2007 the EPA was made responsible under new Drinking Water Regulations for the supervision of the provision of drinking water supplied by public authorities.  These Regulations came into effect immediately.

Up until March 2007 the main role for the EPA in relation to drinking water was the publication of the annual report on drinking water quality.

The new Regulations substantially change the role for the EPA in relation to drinking water. The EPA is now the supervisory authority for public water supplies intended for human consumption supplied by a local authority. The Regulations also provide the EPA with both specific and general powers of direction to ensure compliance with the drinking water standards. Specific directions can be issued for issues such as requiring local authorities to prepare and implement action programmes to meet the standards, carry out monitoring and submit records.