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Recalled bottled water had arsenic levels five and a half times above legal limit

Different types of bacteria and organisms found in the water also exceeded acceptable limits.

Plastic bottles of water.
Plastic bottles of water.
Image: Shutterstock/Alexey_Arz

BOTTLED WATER FROM Monaghan company Celtic Pure was found to have arsenic levels five and a half times above EU legal limits, according to one retail sample taken in July. 

Recalls were issued for different batches of own-brand supermarket water produced by the company due to illegal levels of arsenic on 27 July and 2 August by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). 

The brands recalled were from supermarkets such as Spar, Londis, Aldi and Dunnes Stores. It did not include Celtic Pure branded bottled water. 

TheJournal.ie has discovered that these levels were five and a half times above EU limits in one retail sample, according to a closure order issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to Celtic Pure. 

Although the levels detected are above legal limits, they are not considered to pose any short-term health effects, according to a spokesperson for the FSAI.

They said people should not be alarmed or concerned by the levels and that the risk of any long-term health impact is “unlikely”. 

EU law says that arsenic levels in water intended for human consumption cannot exceed one millionth of a gram for every litre of water (10 µg/l).  

The sample results from bottled water produced by Celtic Pure varied from 11.7.µg/l and 54.7.µg/l, the latter of which is five and a half times above the EU legal limit. 

Earlier this week, the High Court confirmed the appointment of an examiner to Celtic Pure after the company sought protection of the court from its creditors due to the fall out from two investigations launched after the arsenic was found. 

Eight water samples were listed in the closure order by the HSE officer taken from retail bottles and water tanks between 22 July and 1 August. The samples were extracted from one well and the issues have since been resolved, according to Celtic Pure. 

This order detailed that there was an excess in bacteria and other materials found in the Celtic Pure water such as enterococci and coliforms. Arsenic was listed as the reason for the recall by the FSAI on 3 August. 

The business was ordered to cease operations in a closure order sent from an authorised HSE officer to Celtic Pure on 14 August. This order required part of the business to stop producing all of its spring waters and ‘other waters’ from one well. 

“Since the product recall the company has worked closely with the HSE to ensure that the water supplied by Celtic Pure is completely safe and fully compliant with legislation,” Celtic Pure said in a statement on 29 August. 

Materials found

One sample taken from a Celtic Pure well that produced spring water on 1 August identified 1 cfu/250ml of enterococci and 4 cfu/250ml of coliforms (a ‘cfu’ is a unit that estimates the number of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a sample). 

Nearly three times as many coliforms were found in a sample from a different Celtic Pure well on 1 August. 

Enterococci are bacteria found in the intestines of humans and animals and certain strains can cause illness in humans. The presence of coliforms in drinking water indicates that it has not been properly disinfected. 

Any detection of either of these materials in drinking water is seen as unacceptable, according to Irish Water.  

Celtic Pure had a filtration system in place to reduce arsenic levels when the samples were taken. However, the HSE closure order for the company said that this system was “shown to be ineffective” as the samples exceeded limits. 

The arsenic levels increased in certain batches due to a mechanical failure of the filtration device at one of its springs, according to Celtic Pure. 

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