Irish Water defends its handling of threats to water quality

Risks from microbes or pollutants to supplies serving 700,000 people

Irish Water has defended its management of threats to water quality after a drinking-water report found that supplies serving 700,000 people are at risk from contamination by infectious microbes or chemical pollutants.

The Green Party said the Environmental Protection Agency's report for 2016 "highlights the lack of urgency by the Government in addressing water-quality and environmental issues".

Its leader, Eamon Ryan, said: "While Irish Water have made considerable progress on water issues in the last year, which is to be welcomed, the fact that 700,000 people in this country are at risk of contaminated water supplies is incredibly concerning."

Irish Water said it has “one overall strategic plan and a budget of €2 billion between 2014 and 2021” to improve and secure drinking-water quality and supply. “Irish Water’s work in 2016 has not only increased the number of customers benefiting from a safe, secure water supply with investment and innovation, but has also ensured that standards were improved and supplies were secured for others, with further planned improvements.”


New and upgraded plants

Irish Water delivered six new and 22 upgraded water-treatment plants, ensuring a safe secure supply of drinking water, it said.

In addition, it brought more than 100 drinking-water projects and programmes through concept, design and/or construction phases that are continuing into 2017 and beyond.

It was implementing a national disinfection strategy to address deficiencies in supplies. So far 363 water-treatment plants have been surveyed, and works have started at 83 of them.

When Irish Water took over responsibility for water services, in 2014, 16,000 people were on boil-water notices. This had reduced to 5,654 people, affected by a total of 10 notices, by the end of 2016; 92 percent of those people are on the one supply, at Ballinlough-Loughglynn in Co Roscommon, whose boil-water notice the agency anticipated would be lifted by the end of 2017.

Irish Water's managing director, Jerry Grant, said: "One of our key goals is that the same standard of service to consumers for water and wastewater will apply no matter where you live in the country."

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times