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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 5 December, 2019
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Why is a boil water notice in place and what could happen if you drink it?

The notice was issued yesterday evening following a “small mechanical failure” at Leixlip Water Treatment plant.

water Source: Shutterstock/dashtik

THE BOIL WATER notice in place for parts of Dublin, Meath and Kildare affects around 600,000 people and is expected to be in place for several days.

It was sparked following a problem at the Leixlip Water Treatment plant which prevented the water from being disinfected to a normal standard, allowing parasites to enter the water supply.

Irish Water was made aware of the issue at the facility, which is operated by Fingal County Council, yesterday morning.

Testing carried out throughout the day revealed that some contaminated water had entered the system and the company issued the boil water notice for people in a swathe of the east of the country shortly before 6pm.

Supplies in north Dublin city and county are affected along with part of the south Dublin county council area, north Kildare and part of east Meath.

An interactive map of the affected areas can be found here.

What went wrong?

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 today, Irish Water spokeswoman Yvonne Harris said that around 20% of the water in the Greater Dublin Area pipeline from the facility was affected.

Harris said that the problem was caused by a “small mechanical failure” in part of the plant.

“This was identified as a mechanical error but it could be corrected immediately, at least within a number of hours. It was corrected as soon as it was identified,” she said.

Once it’s corrected then the water is being disinfected to the extent that we would like. How and ever during the period of the down-time, or of the failure, there was a period of time where water wasn’t disinfected to the extent that we would like.

Irish Water says it notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the HSE as soon as it was made aware of the problem. The EPA will be visiting the plant in the coming days to carry out an audit.

Irish Water is expected to issue a fresh update on the incident after meeting with the HSE today.

What’s in the water?

The lack of adequate disinfection means that water from the plant may contain the cryptosporidium and giardia parasites.

bug Source: Shutterstock/Kateryna Kon

The bugs can cause gastrointestinal infections with symptoms such as diarrhoea and stomach cramps and both can live outside a host for long periods of time.

Cryptosporidium causes Cryptosporidiosis, a diarrhoeal disease whose symptoms include watery diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting. The symptoms appear between two and 10 days after a person becomes infected. The illness lasts for seven days on average but symptoms can linger for up to a month.

Giardiasis is characterised by diarrhoea, flatulence, nausea and foul-smelling greasy stools. Symptoms occur between seven to 10 days after exposure to the parasite and they typically last between five to seven days.

The HSE is urging anyone who develops the symptoms to consult their GP for testing and treatment.

How to prevent it

People are being warned to boil their water for drinking purposes as well as for brushing their teeth and preparing food and infants’ bottles. After the water is boiled, if it is not for use immediately it should be kept in clean containers and protected from risk of contamination. 

The HSE has advised businesses that all water used for food preparation and consumption has to be from an approved and safe source. 

Childcare workers and people who handle food as part of their job are being told to ensure that they wash their hands frequently.

If clean tap water is not available they should use water from water tankers, bottled water or hand wipes or sanitisers. 

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Ceimin Burke

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