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At least 52 people fell ill after contaminated water entered the public drinking supply

Several illnesses were reported by the HSE.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated Sep 17th 2021, 9:32 PM

MINISTER FOR LOCAL Government Darragh O’Brien said two serious incidents relating to water treatment facilities led to people becoming sick following drinking tap water.

The minister said he was sent a letter by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which detailed how unsafe drinking water was allowed into parts of Dublin city and Gorey in Wexford.

O’Brien said that, in the case of Gorey, “illnesses [were] detected by the HSE in the community served by that water supply”.

In their letter, the EPA stated that an abject failure in management oversight, operational control and responsiveness at two public drinking water treatment plants had allowed unsafe water to enter into the public drinking water supply and endanger public health.

The EPA said it had confirmed at least 52 people who became ill after consuming the water.

These incidents have been rectified and the water supply from the two plants is now safe to drink.

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to investigate areas around Ireland impacted by poor water supply.

O’Brien said: “I find the failures identified by the EPA concerning and unacceptable – peoples’ safety is paramount. My officials have been in contact with the EPA and Irish Water on the issues raised and I have today spoken with the Managing Director of Irish Water as well as both the Chief Executives of Dublin City Council and Wexford County Council.

“My department has received reports from Irish Water and the EPA and I have now also asked the two local authorities for an immediate report on the incidents. It is essential that all parties work together to put in place effective corrective actions to ensure a safe and secure water supply.”

O’Brien said he has requested that Irish Water audit its “water treatment plant operational arrangements as a matter of urgency and that each local authority provide Irish Water with open and uninhibited access to water treatment plants”.

Irish Water said it investigated an issue with the treatment process that occurred at the plant between 19 and 24 August.

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The body said it was made aware that there had been an issue with the treatment process at the Creagh water treatment plant on the 26 August and immediately notified the EPA. The HSE was also consulted on this date.

Following consultation with the HSE, they advised that a Boil Water Notice on the supply was not necessary at this point as the incident had passed and the plant was operating correctly. There have been no issues at the Water Treatment Plant since 24 August.

Irish Water issued communications to customers and stakeholders via elected representatives and on the Irish Water website as soon as a number of reports of illness in the community were received.

“Irish Water has been working with the EPA and Wexford County Council to investigate the incident. Irish Water is also reviewing the disinfection and filtration process at the plant and continue to liaise with the EPA, and our partners in Wexford County Council, to ensure there is no repeat of the issue, with a programme of works now in place.” 

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