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Dublin: 9°C Monday 30 November 2020

86,000 people have had to boil their water to make it safe this year

The EPA published its drinking water report for 2015 today.

drinkng water An infographic showing the key findings of the EPA Drinking Water report 2015. Source: EPA

CLOSE TO 40,000 people were affected by Boil Water Notices across Ireland at some stage last year, according to the annual drinking water report.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the Drinking Water Report 2015, showing that 35 Boil Water Notices were in place in 2015 for some or all of the year.

These notices affected nearly 40,000 people.

Since 2014, 128,789 people have been placed on Boil Water Notices. These notices have been lifted in the case of 121,645 people since then.

“So far this year, 86,000 people have had to boil their water to make it safe. This is more than twice as many as last year,” said Gerard O’Leary, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement.

The report states that as of 21 October there are 18 supplies across the country on Boil Water Notices, affecting 25,621 people across 13 counties.

However, Irish Water said in a statement that since then there have been a number of notices lifted, leaving 7,144 people on a notice now.

A Boil Water Notice is a notice issued to the public by Irish Water and the HSE advising that water from a public supply must be boiled before being consumed.

There are 962 public drinking water supplies in Ireland, which service 83% of the population.

Other findings

The report found that the majority of public drinking water supplies are safe and comply with microbiological and chemical standards.

However the report also notes that there are today 108 “at risk” public water supplies on Remedial Action List that need to be addressed.

This compares to 115 at the end of 2015 and 309 at the start of 2008.

37 of the supplies currently lack adequate treatment to prevent the microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium entering drinking water.
E.coli was detected at least once in seven supplies, compared to 8 supplies in 2014.

Irish Water said the report showed major progress in its work in securing and safeguarding Ireland’s water.

“This EPA Drinking Water Compliance Report clearly shows that the strategy, investment and implementation from Irish Water is having a very positive outcome for communities across the country,” said Jerry Grant managing director of Irish Water.

Pesticides an “emerging issue”

The report also found that the number public drinking water supplies in Ireland contaminated with pesticides has more than doubled in a year.

It shows that 61 public drinking water supplies were found to be above the acceptable level for individual pesticide contamination.

This compares to 28 supplies above the level in 2014, marking a significant rise. it is also over six times over the 10 water supplies that were affected in 2011.

The most prominent pesticide contaminant of water was the herbicide MCPA – used to kill weeds – which was found to have exceeded acceptable limits in 41 water supplies.

Pesticides are widely used in agriculture, to protect plants and animals from harmful weeds, plant diseases and insects.

The acceptable limit of individual pesticides in a water supply is 0.1μg/1.

The EPA limit on acceptable levels of contamination are particularly low, ensuring that any dangers to water supplies are identified well ahead of time.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) limit of 2μg/l for the herbicide MCPA was exceeded in one supply in Ireland - Templenoe in Kerry.

A spokesperson for the EPA said that the limits are very precautionary. There is a risk to public health only in cases where the amount in a supply is high above the limit over a long period.

The EPA said there has never been a case in Ireland where water contaminated with pesticides has been a risk to public health.

The EPA said pesticide contamination was an “emerging issue” in relation to drinking water, and that action needed to be taken on the issue.

“A new series of catchment-based engagement efforts need to be devised and acted on, coordinated and instructed by a national strategy,” the report states.

Irish Water is developing a National Pesticides Strategy which is due to be implemented by 2017.

You can read to report in full here

Read: It’s going to cost €123 million to keep Irish Water afloat due to water charges shortfall

Read: Boil water notice lifted for almost 50,000 people in Mayo

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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