While the quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high, supplies to over 1 million people are vulnerable to failure, says EPA Director General

  • 99.9% of samples complied with bacterial parameter limits and 99.6% complied with chemical parameter limits.
  • 67 boil water notices were in place in 2019, affecting more than 650,000 people.
  • 52 treatment plants suppling water to over one million people are vulnerable to failure.

The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies Report 2019, released today, shows that the quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high with 99.9% compliance with bacterial limits and 99.6% compliance with chemical limits. The continued high levels of water quality being achieved are positive for consumers. However, increasing uncertainty in Irish Water’s planning and delivery of critical improvements to water treatment plants is making supplies vulnerable to failure, posing a risk to the health of a large portion of the population.

The EPA’s Remedial Action List contained 52 supplies with significant issues to be addressed by Irish Water at the end of 2019. While this figure is down from 63 supplies in 2018, the population affected by these supplies has doubled in the same period to over 1.1 million. This is mainly due to the addition of the Leixlip water treatment plant to the List – following two boil water notices last year that affected more than 600,000 people.

Launching the report, Laura Burke, EPA Director General said:

“The supply of safe drinking water is of critical importance for our wellbeing and for social and economic prosperity. Delays in delivering public water improvements puts water quality and the public’s health at risk. While progress is being made, the multiple failures at the Leixlip water treatment plant last year highlight the serious lack of resilience in our water supplies. The growing uncertainty in Irish Water’s planning and delivery of critical improvements to water treatment plantsis undermining confidence in the security of supply of safe drinking water.

Irish Water needs to urgently address the underlying causes for the delays and shortcomings highlighted in this report and prioritise investment to ensure that public supplies are safe and secure, and that public health is protected.”

The EPA has also seen delays in completing the national disinfection programme and a significant reduction in work planned to remove “lead” from supply connections.

Andy Fanning, EPA Programme Manager, said:

“Disinfection is the most important step in water treatment and makes our water safe by keeping water free of harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites. Lead presents a different problem where the only remedy is to remove the lead pipework. With the reduced programme for removing lead pipes the EPA estimates that it could take Irish Water up to 60 years to remove all public-side lead connections.”

The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies 2019 Report and the complete list of public water supplies currently on the Remedial Action List – including details of the proposed remedial measures and associated timeframes – is available on the EPA website.

Notes to Editor

Some key findings of the 2019 report on public water supplies:

  • 99.9% of samples comply with microbiological parameter limits.
  • 99.6% of samples comply with chemical parameter limits.
  • 67 boil water notices and eight water restrictions were in place in 2019, affecting more than 700,000 people.
  • 59 of those boil water notices were in place for more than 30 days, meaning they are classed as long-term notices requiring investment in infrastructure to address
  • E. coli bacteria was detected at least once in eight supplies, compared to 12 supplies in 2018.
  • Trihalomethanes limits were exceeded in 46 supplies, compared to 54 in 2018.
  • Pesticides limits were exceeded in 27 supplies, compared to 34 in 2018.
  • 52 supplies were on the EPA’s Remedial Action List at the end of 2019 compared to 63 at the end of 2018.
  • The EPA conducted 57 audits of water treatment plants and three audits of Irish Water’s monitoring programmes in 2019
  • The EPA issued 20 Directions (legally binding instructions) to Irish Water in 2019.

 

The EPA has identified the following priorities for Irish Water to address on a national level to protect and improve public water supplies:

  • Progressing action programmes for all Remedial Action List schemes;
  • Prevention of long-term boil water notices by providing robust disinfection systems;
  • Minimising harmful disinfection by-products such as Trihalomethanes (THM) by providing treatment that adequately removes organic matter in the water;
  • Eliminating lead from our drinking water networks;
  • Preventing pesticides from entering our drinking water sources;
  • Managing risks to our public water supplies by adopting Drinking Water Safety Plans for all supplies.

 

List of the supplies currently on a Boil Water Notice or Water Restriction

County

Name of Supply

Population Affected

Cork

Knockadoon

27

Kerry

Aughacasla PWS

42

Kerry

Central Regional – Lough Guitane

165

Limerick

Carrigmore PWS

370

Limerick

Fedamore PWS

492

Meath

Baltrasna

9

Meath

Longwood

6

Meath

Slane

3

Sligo

Lough Talt Regional Water Supply

12,576

Tipperary

Templetuohy

819

Tipperary

 Clonmel Poulavanogue

96

Tipperary

Galtee Regional

307

Tipperary

Glenary

118

Waterford

Ballydermody 

2

Wexford

Ballinavarry

10

Wicklow

Ballymorris Public Supply

17

Wicklow

Johnstown South (Arklow) Public Supply

6

 TOTAL

 

 15,065