10/09/2019

EPA Raise Concerns Over 'Inadequate' Drinking Water Plants

Cryptosporidium, a bug that causes serious stomach illness, was found in 25 public water supplies in 2018, up from 17 in 2017 and 12 in 2016, according to the latest report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies Report 2018, shows that the quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high with 99.9% compliance with microbiological parameters and 99.6% compliance with chemical parameters. However, the report highlights that the incidence of Cryptosporidium detections has increased in the past three years, posing a serious risk to human health.

Of particular concern are supplies which have inadequate processes in place to treat or remove Cryptosporidium and those where there is no treatment in place at all.

Commenting on the report, Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement said: "We are seeing an upward trend in Cryptosporidium contamination in drinking water supplies. We know that Cryptosporidium can cause serious gastrointestinal illness, particularly in young children and the elderly, and the EPA has ensured that Irish Water has investigated each of these Cryptosporidium detections.

"Irish Water must make certain that water treatment plants are properly and effectively operated to protect public health. Those plants without appropriate treatment for Cryptosporidium need to be prioritised for investment by Irish Water."

The EPA has added supplies to the EPA Remedial Action List, following its audits of drinking water plants. Irish Water has to prioritise sites on the EPA Remedial Action List and develop action plans for improvements to be completed, by set dates.

Andy Fanning, Programme Manager, EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement, commented: "At the end of 2018, the number of supplies on the EPA's Remedial Action List had decreased. Unfortunately, that downward trend has been reversed in the first six months of 2019, when we added eight supplies to the Remedial Action List.

"These additions highlight that there are still significant problems at many of Ireland's water treatment plants, with the potential to harm people's health. The EPA is particularly concerned about supplies where we have seen poor operational practices at water treatment plants. Consumers must have confidence that their water supply is not just safe to drink today but will also be safe in the long term."

The EPA has also identified priorities for Irish Water to address on a national level to protect and improve public water supplies.

The EPA Drinking Water Report 2018 and the complete list of public water supplies currently on the Remedial Action List - including details of the proposed remedial measures and associated timeframes - is available on the EPA website.

(MH/CM)

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