Water contamination in 30 areas across state, says EPA

‘Boil notices’ hitting 15,000 in Roscommon alone

Wed, Dec 11, 2013, 13:41

Irish Water, the new State utility, will have “a lot of work to do to provide safe and secure drinking water to the public,” according to Gerard O’Leary, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement division.

He was commenting on the EPA’s latest report on drinking water quality, which showed that householders are on “boil water” notices — including more than 15,000 people in Roscommon — because of contaminated supplies in 30 areas across the State.

On a more positive note, the EPA highlighted the fact that the number of water supplies on the agency’s remedial action list is down from 339 to 140 in five years. Remedial works on a further 70 supplies will be complete by the end of this year, it said.

The report showed that public water supplies run by local authorities — due to be transferred to Irish Water — that serve more than 82 per cent of the population “have improved year-on-year” since the EPA started compiling the remedial action list five years ago.

Although there has been a 92 per cent reduction in the number of incidents where E.coli contamination exceeded guidelines, it said heavy rainfall in the summer of 2012 and “sudden changes” in raw water from flooding had “compromised a number of water supplies”.

The report’s findings, based on more than 250,000 monitoring tests, also showed that the quality of drinking water from private supplies such as group water schemes “remains inferior”, with a doubling in the number of cases of VTEC, a very harmful form of E.coli.

Disinfection kills all E.coli, including VTEC. But while public water supplies are disinfected, not all private wells are, as the report pointed out. Any form of E. coli is an indicator of faecal matter in the water supply, and VTEC can have particularly serious consequences.

“We continue to be concerned about the number of VTEC cases,” said David Flynn, programme manager in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement. “We would urge the owners of private supplies to check their water sources and ensure that the water is disinfected.”

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