EPA Drinking Water Report 2007/2008

Date released: Apr 23 2009

EPA directs 15 local authorities to restore drinking water quality and prosecutes one local authority for failure to comply with a legally binding Direction.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to-day released a report on the Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland: A Report for the Years 2007-2008.

Commenting on the report, Mr. Dara Lynott, Director, EPA Office of Environmental Enforcement said:

“We need sustained investment in infrastructure to deliver clean drinking water. Clean drinking water is vital to sustain our health and well-being and we rely upon it, particularly those involved in the services, manufacturing and tourism industries.  Such investment during these tough economic times will provide the platform for sustainable development into the future.”

Between January and September 2008, the EPA received and assessed 283 notifications of failure to meet drinking water standards, audited 59 water treatment plants, issued 47 legally binding Directions to 15 local authorities requiring specific actions to be undertaken to improve the security of their supplies, and prosecuted one local authority for their failure to comply with an EPA Direction (Galway County Council).

This is the EPA’s second report on drinking water quality following the making of Regulations in 2007 providing for a greater level of consumer protection. The Regulations require local authorities to notify the EPA and the Health Service Executive where there is a potential risk to human health, and to comply with their directions. 

The EPA found that:

In relation to the safety of drinking water (i.e. comparing the results of almost 240,000 monitoring tests against national and EU standards):

  • E. coli was detected on at least one occasion in 52 out of 952 public water supplies. This figure is down from 77 in the previous year (2006). This indicates that intermittent contamination of approximately 5% of public water supplies occurred in 2007.
  • The number of private group water schemes where E. coli was detected dropped from 246 in 2006 to 184 in 2007.  However, despite this improvement, over 31% of private group water schemes were contaminated at least once during 2007.
  • Overall compliance with the chemical standards was satisfactory at 99.1% but challenges will exist to comply with the tighter lead standard in 2013.
  • Compliance with several indicator parameters, in particular compliance with aluminium and turbidity parametric values, remains poor.

In relation to the security of water supplies (i.e. the management of the risks to the drinking water treatment plant and supply network):

  • Of the 339 public water supplies identified by the EPA and placed on a Remedial Action List (RAL) in early 2008, 83 supplies were removed from the list having completed the necessary remedial actions and 62 were added.  Overall at the end of March 2009 there were 320 supplies on the RAL. 
  • Boil water notices or restrictions of use (e.g. do not drink) were put in place on 53 supplies serving approximately 118,000 persons in 2008.  Adverse weather conditions in August 2008 alone led to the imposition of boil water notices on 20 supplies.

Mr. Lynott added that:

“Operators of drinking water plants are in the business of producing a food source and protecting public health; as treatment technologies advance there will need to be a corresponding up-skilling of those charged with the operation and management of drinking water treatment plants.”

Concluding, Mr. Lynott said:

“The conservation of water provides a win-win for those responsible for delivering clean drinking water.  Conserving water supplied through leak repair means water is available for other or future uses and maximises the use of current treatment infrastructure. Using free on-line tools such as those available on http://www.greenbusiness.ie/allow business and educational establishments to calculate losses of water through unintentional emissions and cut costs for business”
The report entitled The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland, A Report for the Years 2007 - 2008  contains summary reports for all local authorities.  It is available on the EPA web site or from the EPA Publications’ Office, McCumiskey House, Richview, Dublin 14 on 01-2680100 - €25.

Notes to Editor

  • E. coli is an indicator of whether human or animal waste has entered the water supply,
  • The European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations (No.2), 2007 assigned new powers and responsibilities to the EPA in the drinking water area. Since March 2007 the powers assigned to the EPA include a responsibility to:
  • Ensure local authorities are taking the appropriate action to ensure that public water supplies comply with the relevant quality standards;
  • Review the actions taken by local authorities in public water supplies where there has been a breach of a standard or any other risk to human health;
  • Review and approve monitoring programmes to ensure that adequate monitoring is carried out by local authorities;
  • Audit local authority water treatment plants; and
  • Publish guidance on how local authorities are to implement the Regulations.

The local authority, in turn, has been designated as the supervisory authority over private water supplies (including group water schemes) and has similar responsibilities to the EPA in relation to these supplies.