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Water for almost a million people is at risk of contamination

E.coli was detected in at least one in 10 supplies.

Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

Updated 5.45pm

WATER FOR ALMOST a million people is at risk of contamination according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s recommending priority improvements on 121 water supplies, which provide water to 940,000 people.

The supplies are failing to meet the microbial and the chemical standards required for safe drinking water.

Meanwhile, over 20,000 people – on 20 public water supplies – are affected by boil notices.

EPA says improvements to disinfection systems, better management of water treatment and more investment in robust and resilient infrastructure is required.

The removal of lead pipes in the network will be a priority area for investment because of a more stringent lead standard for drinking water since January 2014.

Inadequacy 

Welcoming the publication of the report, Irish Water said it provides a clear picture in terms of “inadequacy of a significant proportion of our treatment plants supplying drinking water”.

The company said it is “unacceptable in a modern, developed country” that more than 23,000 people are required to boil their water before drinking it. It will spend a total of €20 million on six new plants in Roscommon which will remove boil water notices for more than 17,000 people by April this year.

“The problems identified in today’s report by the EPA highlights the critical need to invest in upgrading the public water network and the need to prioritise that investment at a national level to deliver the most urgently needed improvements to the communities most affected,” Irish Water said in a statement.

“An increased level of investment is required to ensure Ireland has a public water service that is fit for purpose and meeting the needs of all communities.”

Speaking today, Gerard O’Leary, Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said:

Overall, the compliance rate in public supplies is good but this masks the specific and serious problems occurring in some supplies and the significant risk of future problems.

“Investment is needed to improve the supplies where people cannot use their water and to reduce the risk of other supplies failing to meet the required quality standards in the future.”

According to the EPA’s Drinking Water Report for 2013 released today – over 99% of supplies meet standards.

The report also shows that water quality in the private water supply sector lags significantly behind the quality in the public network.

- Additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

First published 7.30am

Read: ‘Heads need to be knocked together’ to lift two year boil water notice in Galway>

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