Cryptosporidium identified in Carraroe water supply

Boil water notices issued to 15,000 people and businesses in Connemara and east Cork

Irish Water has advised some 4,700 people dependent on the public supply in Carraroe to boil their water until further notice. Archive photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy/The Irish Times

Irish Water has identified cryptosporidium contamination in Carraroe’s public supply in Connemara.

The discovery came as ten thousand homes and businesses in Cork were issued with boil water notices over fears of contaminated drinking water.

The State utility has advised some 4,700 people dependent on the public supply in Carraroe to boil their water until further notice.

This follows a similar notice issued for Leitir Móir/Tír an Fhia in south and west Connemara in January.


However, Sinn Féín senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has criticised Irish Water for failing to upgrade the Carraroe scheme when it was directed to by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“This supply has been substandard for years and the EPA have indicated for the last number of years that there has been insufficient protection for cryptosporidium,”Senator Ó Clochartaigh said.

The EPA also confirmed over a year ago that five samples taken from Carraroe's public water supply showed much higher levels of THMs (trihalomethanes) than was acceptable under World Health Organisation guidelines.

THMs are a group of organic chemicals formed when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in water before it is filtered.

'The people of Carraroe and surrounding areas who are supplied from this source are incensed today to hear that they must now boil water,"Senator O Clochartaigh said, calling for immediate action to upgrade treatment in Carraroe and to reinstate plans to finish the Casla regional water scheme.

About half of the Casla scheme was completed by Galway County Council, but Irish Water abandoned plans to finish it at an estimated cost of 10 million euro.

‘This [Casla} scheme would have also resolved other water quality issues across south and west Connemara, including the cryptosporidium outbreak in Leitir Móir,”he said.

Last month, Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne said that €400,000 of funding had been approved for the upgrade of the Carraroe treatment plant, which was currently nearing final design stage and for which planning would be sought in May.

“ Construction is then expected to start in late August or early September, with a completion date for February of next year,he said.

“In the meantime a coagulation plant is being put in place which, according to Irish Water, is the only feasible method in this case of reducing THMs as alternative methods result in other types of chemicals being formed in the water,”he said.

Coagulation involves a filtration process which reduces the presence of THMs. Mr Kyne, who is an agri-environmental consultant by profession, said that coagulation had successfully reduced risks such as cryptosporidium and THMs in other water supply schemes in Rosmuc and Tir an Fhia.

‘”The long term plan is to bring water from the upgraded and larger water treatment schemes in the city area into locations in Connemara,”he said.

The notice for Carraroe’s public supply advises boiling water for drinking, teeth-brushing and preparing salads and vegetables.

Meanwhile, a six to eight month boil water notice in parts of east Cork has been described as “disgraceful” by a Sinn Féin TD who says the elderly and business owners have been left reeling by the disruption to services.

Ten thousand homes and businesses in Cloyne, Whitegate, Ballinacurra, Ballycotton, Churchtown, Aghada and Trabolgan have been issued with a boil water notice for Whitegate Water treatment plant on the advice of the HSE amid fears the water supply may be contaminated.

The plant supplies nine million litres of water every day.

Irish Water says ground surrounding the water treatment plant is waterlogged due to record rainfall in recent months and rainfall is reaching the water treatment plant from the surrounding catchment area very quickly.

“The weather conditions are leading to high turbidity, or cloudiness, in the water. High turbidity levels have occurred at Whitegate over the last couple of months and, on the advice of the HSE during these periods, three separate precautionary boil water notices were already imposed in the interest of public health to eliminate the risk of infection.

“Irish Water wishes to apologise to our customers affected by this issue and reassure them that they will not be liable to charges for drinking water supply while the boil water notice remains in place.”

Sinn Féin Cork East TD Pat Buckley says people are being “let down” by Irish Water.

“It is madness. They are supposed to be providing a service but all they are providing is excuses. I have requested a full report but haven’t even got a response to my email. How are you supposed to run a business if you haven’t water?

What about vulnerable elderly people? Why haven’t they gone in to businesses with tankers of water? It is scandalous.”

Fine Gael TD in Cork East David Stanton says it is a major imposition on people to boil water and that he is anxious that everything would be done to sort the situation as quickly as possible.

Customers in the impacted areas are advised to boil all water for drinking, food preparation, brushing of teeth and making of ice. Water can be used as normal for bathing and flushing of toilets.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times