Irish Water pleased with EPA report despite cryptosporidium warning

EPA recognised company’s improvements and progress on priority issues

Report showed continuing progress in reducing the number of drinking water schemes on the EPA’s remedial action list. Photograph: iStock

Report showed continuing progress in reducing the number of drinking water schemes on the EPA’s remedial action list. Photograph: iStock


Irish Water has underlined acknowledgment by the EPA of the overall progress it is making in improving drinking water quality in Ireland, in spite of issues with levels of cryptosporidium and pesticides found in public supplies.

The latest report –for 2018 – notes drinking water quality has remained consistently high since Irish Water became responsible for public water supplies, with more than 98 per cent compliance across the testing of microbes and chemical contaminants.

The EPA recognised Irish Water’s continuing improvements to water supplies and its progress on priority issues, “such as disinfection and pesticide exceedances” at a national level, said its general manager Eamon Gallen.

The utility was investing €2 billion over a seven-year period up to 2021 to improve drinking water quality, he confirmed, including legacy issues it had inherited since its formation in 2013.

“The EPA report demonstrates the work done in 2018 to improve the quality of water for customers,” he added. “This included increasing levels of replacement of lead pipes and connections; reducing the number of long-term boil water notices; rolling out the national disinfection programme to mitigate against risks such as cryptosporidium and through its participation on the National Pesticide and Drinking Water Action Group.”

The report showed continuing progress in reducing the number of drinking water schemes on the EPA’s remedial action list, he added. “In 2018 the number of the supplies on the list decreased from 77 to 63. Remedial works were completed on 22 drinking water supplies and action plans and completion dates have been submitted for the remaining supplies.”

Mr Gallen said: “During 2018, we made major investments in new and upgraded plants as well as improvement programmes delivering key upgrades within operating plants. Through the national disinfection programme, Irish Water is investing over €65 million to make our drinking water safe from bacteria and parasites, such as E. coli and cryptosporidium.”

Disinfection sites

This programme involves assessing 859 disinfection sites. To date, they had assessed 790 sites and completed upgrade works on more than 190 sites nationwide. They were also working to address the issue of chlorine by-products in drinking water (trihalomethanes or THMs) via a specific programme of treatment upgrades.

A key aspect of producing safe drinking water has been an enhanced and systematic testing of water, he said. “During 2018 we devised a standardised monitoring protocol which has resulted in a more robust risk-based monitoring programme for supplies at risk from cryptosporidium.”

This enabled engineering and scientific specialists to identify risks to supplies quickly and react definitively, and to ensure the EPA, HSE and the public were informed where water is considered unsafe to drink.

The report was clear however that much more remained to be done, Mr Gallen accepted. “It identifies that pesticide concentrations are a concern in an increasing number of plants and Irish Water is in full agreement that this is best addressed through catchment management.”

Irish Water was working closely with partners in the action group to create awareness of the importance of responsible pesticide use. “We are advancing Water Safety Plans for all of our larger supplies, with a key emphasis on minimising risks from source to tap,” he said.

“Overall, in 2018 public water supplies were 99 per cent compliant which is an extremely high level of compliance with the drinking water regulations. Given the size and scale of the legacy issues and condition of some of the water treatment plants, Irish Water is pleased that this is a solid base from which to build.”