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Ireland could be in trouble if it doesn't take action on contaminated drinking water

Trihalomethane contamination in the Irish water supply could land the government in trouble with the EU.

Image: Shutterstock/Jakub Zak

THE ISSUE OF trihalomethane (THM) contamination in the Irish water supply could land the government in trouble with the European Commission.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney warned his Cabinet colleagues yesterday of the potential infringement proceedings that could be brought against Ireland due to dangerous levels of chemicals found in drinking water.

Any potential legal action taken by the Commission on the level of THMs in the water system could result in daily penalties being imposed on Ireland.

What are THMs?

Trihalomethanes are toxic compounds which occur as a result of a reaction between organic materials, like peaty soil, when chlorine is added as a disinfectant.

Long-term exposure to THMs has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers as well as heart, lung, liver and kidney problems.

This is backed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) which states that some studies suggest that very long-term exposure to high levels of THMs may be linked to slightly increased risk of some types of cancer in humans.

However, in a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government said the evidence “is not conclusive”.

A 2016 EU paper identified supplies to approximately 380,000 households exceeded the limit for these toxins.

The Drinking Water Directive requires Member States of the EU to ensure that drinking water meets prescribed quality standards.

Exceeding THM levels 

Ireland was first found in breach in May 2015 when the European Commission initiated pilot infringement proceedings due to exceeding levels of THM levels in some drinking water supplies.

The department said it is working closely with Irish Water to developed plans and programmes to address THM levels and these plans were communicated to the Commission in response to the pilot infringement.

However, in January 2017 the European Commission informed Ireland that the pilot infringement could be escalated to a formal infringement procedure.

A statement to TheJournal.ie stated:

The Department and Irish Water continue to work closely together to ensure plans to bring drinking water quality into compliance are delivered as planned.

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