Number having to boil water for safety has doubled, EPA says

Water restrictions will continue to occur unless investment is made, officials claim

More than 85,000 people have had to boil their water this year to make it safe for drinking, the Environmental Protection Agency has said.

More than 85,000 people have had to boil their water this year to make it safe for drinking, the Environmental Protection Agency has said.

 

More than 85,000 people have had to boil their water this year to make it safe for drinking, the Environmental Protection Agency has said.

The agency said water restrictions will continue to occur in the future unless investment is made to address the deficiencies in the State’s supplies.

“So far this year, 86,000 people have had to boil their water to make it safe. This is more than twice as many as last year,” said Gerard O’Leary, director of the EPA’s office of environmental enforcement.

According to the agency, three priorities need to be addressed: eliminating long-term boil water notices; implementing programmes for all “at risk” supplies, particularly treatment systems to address trihalomethanes; and removing lead from public buildings and homes.

Last year, almost 40,000 people were affected by boil-water notices which were in place for either all or some of 2015, a new EPA report has shown.

The agency said 35 boil water notices, and nine water restrictions, were issued in 2015 while the majority of people currently affected live in Co Roscommon.

The report also shows that 115 “at risk” drinking public water supplies were on the agency’s remedial action list at the end of last year with 108 supplies on the list today.

Of these supplies, 37 lack adequate treatment to prevent Cryptosporidium entering drinking water.

The Drinking Water Report for 2015 indicates that the majority of the State’s 962 drinking water supplies are safe and comply with microbiological and chemical standards, but the EPA said action is needed to bring up standards.

“Irish Water needs to accelerate the investment in remedial works at supplies listed on the EPA’s remedial action list so that the threat of long-term water restrictions is eliminated,” said Darragh Page, a senior inspector at the organisation.

“Where avoidable delays have been caused to these planned upgrade works, the EPA has and will continue to take enforcement action.”

Commenting on “areas for further progress”, the EPA said pesticides, specifically MCPA, emerged as a significant water-quality issue in 2015.

Pesticide exceedances

Irish Water notified the EPA of 61 supplies that detected pesticide exceedances in 2015.

This is a significant increase on the 28 supplies in which pesticide exceedances were reported on in 2014.

It said six drinking water safety plans were complete and 173 were in preparation at the end of 2015, compared with six complete and 53 in preparation in 2014, adding that completing these plans from source to tap is key to ensuring the future resilience of public water supplies.

Boil water notices are issued to the public by Irish Water and the HSE, advising that water must be boiled before being consumed.

Water restrictions advise that the water supply is subject to restrictions and may only be used by certain types of people or subject to certain conditions.

Currently 17 public water supplies are on boil water notices affecting areas of counties Cavan, Clare, Galway, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Meath, Roscommon, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

In Roscommon, 3,500 people are affected by the boil water notice on the Ballinlough/Loughglynn water supply.