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Vulnerability Of Ireland’s Drinking Water Must Be Urgently Addressed.

Vulnerability of Ireland’s drinking water supplies must be urgently addressed by Irish Water.

  • The quality of drinking water from public supplies is high, with over 99.7% of samples compliant with bacterial and chemical limits.
  • At the end of 2020, 46 vulnerable water supplies – serving 1 million people – required significant works, with over half experiencing delays.
  • Over 15,500 people were on boil water notices for longer than one month.
  • It will take decades for Irish Water to remove all lead connections at their current rate of replacement.

The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies Report 2020 released today, shows that the quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high, with over 99.7% compliance with bacterial and chemical limits. The continued high levels of water quality being achieved are positive for consumers and indicate that the water is safe to drink.
However, improvements are needed in our drinking water infrastructure to protect public health. Delays in the delivery of these improvements at water treatment plants by Irish Water means that water supplies remain vulnerable for longer, posing a risk to the health of a large portion of the population.

The EPA’s Remedial Action List identified 46 vulnerable supplies (serving 1,000,000 consumers) with significant issues to be addressed by Irish Water at the end of 2020. This figure is down from 77 supplies in 2017. Through EPA targeted enforcement, Leixlip has since been removed from the list, after works there resulted in a more secure water supply for over half a million people. However, improvement works at almost half of these supplies will now take longer to complete than was anticipated at the end of 2019.

Launching the report, Dr Tom Ryan, EPA Director said:

“It is good news that our water is safe to drink today, but we cannot say with confidence that it is resilient into the future. The EPA remains concerned about the vulnerability of many drinking water supplies nationally. Irish Water needs to fix the remaining supplies on the EPA’s Remedial Action List without further delay. Recent incidents at Gorey and Ballymore Eustace water treatment plants have highlighted the absolute necessity for Irish Water to ensure our public water supplies are properly and effectively operated, and managed, to protect public health.”

The EPA has also found deficiencies in the national disinfection programme, and a continued lack of focus by Irish Water and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on plans to remove lead from supply connections and assessments of the extent of lead pipework in public buildings on lead in public buildings.

Mr Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager, said:

“15,500 consumers were on Boil water notices for over a month in 2020, and 145,000 households still have lead connections from water mains, which highlights the vulnerabilities that exist in drinking water supplies.

Irish Water must expedite lead connection replacements and progress improvements to disinfection systems – including addressing the issues with the disinfection programme identified by the EPA – to ensure that the quality of drinking water is adequately safeguarded.”

The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies Report 2020 and the complete list of public water supplies currently on the Remedial Action List – including details of the proposed remedial measures and associated timeframes – are available on the EPA website.

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