October 3rd, 2018
Irish Water is set to write to 140,000 homes and businesses over concerns about drinking water quality over the coming weeks.
The concerned supplies are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of 55 ‘at risk’ water supplies across 16 counties where drinking water quality is poor.
Water is safe to drink at 53 of 55 sites but communities in Lough Talt, Co Sligo and Grangemore, Co Roscommon are on boil water notice as water is unsafe to drink straight from the tap.
Concerned homes and businesses will receive a booklet outlining issues with their supply such as elevated Trihalomethanes (THMs) levels, inadequate barriers for cryptosporidium, and the presence of pesticides.
The European Commission opened an infringement case against Ireland this summer for failing to ensure drinking water for over 500,000 consumers is safe from excessive levels of THMs.
According to the Commission, the Irish authorities have “not taken appropriate actions” to bring down THM values and has failed to notify consumers of the health implications.
The chemical is a by-product formed when chlorine used to disinfect drinking water reacts with organic and inorganic matter.
Prolonged consumption of drinking water with high THM levels is linked to liver, kidneys, and bladder diseases, as well as cancer and issues with the central nervous and reproduction systems.
THMs can be absorbed when water comes in contact with skin, through drinking contaminated water or consuming food prepared in this water.
In 2011, the EPA and the Health and Safety Authority submitted a paper to the Commission stating that although the bodies were of the opinion that links to cancer are “weak”, the possibility that they exist “remains”.
“When uncertainty such as this emerges in environment and health, a precautionary approach is needed,” the report states, although the bodies did not recommend that customers were notified.
Boil notice concern
Friends of the Irish Environment (FiE), an environmental group that sent a complaint to the European Commission over the failure to inform consumers of chemical exceedances back in 2011, welcomed the announcement by Irish Water.
According to FiE, an analysis it commissioned at the time showed that almost 600,000 consumers across 24 counties were supplied with drinking water over the recommended World Health Organisation and Commission limits for Trihalomethanes [THM].
FiE Director Tony Lowes said that consumers have a right to know what is in their water so that they can take the necessary measures to protect themselves.
“THMs are particularly volatile, and consumers – particularly pregnant women – should avoid showering or steamy kitchens,” he said.
He said that he is also concerned with advice from Irish Water to boil water to deal with other contaminations when the water contains high levels of THMs.
“Asking consumers to boil THM laden water allows the volatile chemicals to be released into the air where they are easily absorbed by anyone in the room,” Mr Lowes previously told The Green News.