Dirty water risks health of 550,000 people, warns EPA

Watchdog says 60 supplies across State are threatened with contamination

Environmental Protection Agency  figures show 60 water-supply schemes serving 551,078 customers around the Republic remain at risk of contamination

Environmental Protection Agency figures show 60 water-supply schemes serving 551,078 customers around the Republic remain at risk of contamination

 

Supplies to more than 550,000 Irish Water customers are at risk of contamination by bacteria and other substances, it has emerged.

The State water company, which received €1.1 billion from the Government last year, says it improved 22 supply schemes with 166,000 customers, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had classed as “at risk”, up to a safe standard.

However, EPA figures show that 60 water supply schemes serving 551,078 customers around the Republic remain at risk of contamination. The agency last updated its list of affected schemes at the end of April and confirmed yesterday that the situation had not changed since then.

The environmental watchdog keeps a “remedial action list” of water supply schemes that require work to protect them against bacteria such as E.coli and Cryptosporidium, as well as other substances.

According to the EPA, the “at-risk” supply schemes are spread around the Republic. Five are in the densely populated south Dublin/Wicklow area, including Roundwood, Bray and Greystones.

Cork city’s main supply is included, while there are eight in the west of that county and five in Kerry, potentially exposing large residential areas and regions that rely heavily on tourism to problems.

Kilkenny

The southeast is also hit, with five in Co Kilkenny, including Kilkenny city, along with others in Waterford and Wexford. At the other end of the Republic, Donegal, including Letterkenny, one of its main population centres, has another five. The rest are dotted across the northeast, midlands and midwest.

Irish Water confirmed that the EPA’s list identified supplies that risk failing to consistently provide “safe, clean drinking water” and is working on a plan to upgrade all 60 by 2022.

“It is projected that 21 will be removed [from the list] by the end of 2019, another 18 by the of 2020 and a further 11 by the end of 2021,” the company said.

“Definitive dates are not yet available for the remaining 10 but remedial works will be completed on same within the 2019 to 2021 window.”

The EPA published its first remedial action list in 2008, six years before the Government established Irish Water. Since then, either local councils or the water utility have upgraded 306 supply schemes and had them removed from the list.

Two months

Accounts published by Irish Water’s State-owned parent, Ervia, show that the group paid chief executive Mike Quinn €302,000 last year, a salary of €225,000 with the balance in pensions and other benefits. He joined the group in October 2017 and left early this year. He received €52,000 for the two months he worked in 2017.

Irish Water spent €683 million in 2018 year on new supply and sewage treatment schemes and improving existing facilities. This included work on a waste-water treatment project in Cork and a development in Vartry that will supply south Dublin and Wicklow.

Ervia owns both Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland, a separate company that owns the network of pipes through which natural gas is transported to homes and businesses around the country.