The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognised Irish Water’s continuing improvements to water supplies and its progress on priority issues, such as disinfection and pesticide exceedances, at a national level in its annual Drinking Water Quality Report 2018. The report notes that the quality of drinking water has remained consistently high since Irish Water became responsible for public water supplies, with over 98% compliance across the testing parameters.
The EPA report demonstrates the work done in 2018 to improve the quality of water for customers including: increasing the levels of replacements of lead pipes and connections; reducing the number of long term Boil Water Notices; rolling out the National Disinfection Programme to mitigate against risks such as Cryptosporidium and through its participation on the National Pesticide and Drinking Water Action Group.
The report also shows the continuing progress in reducing the number of drinking water schemes on the EPA’s Remedial Action list. In 2018 the number of the supplies on the list decreased from 77 to 63. Remedial works were completed on 22 drinking water supplies and action plans and completion dates have been submitted for the remaining supplies.
Commenting on the report, Eamon Gallen, General Manager of Irish Water, said: “During 2018, we made major investments in new and upgraded plants as well as improvement programmes delivering key upgrades within operating plants. Through the National Disinfection Programme, Irish Water is investing over €65 million to make our drinking water safe from bacteria and parasites, such as E. coli and Cryptosporidium. This programme involves assessing 859 disinfection sites. To date, we have assessed 790 sites and completed upgrade works on over 190 sites nationwide. We are also working to address the issue of chlorine by-products in drinking water (trihalomethanes or THMs) via a specific programme of treatment upgrades. In total, Irish Water is investing €2 billion between 2014 and 2021 to improve drinking water quality.
“A key aspect of producing safe drinking water has been an enhanced and systematic testing regime of drinking water and, since our establishment, we have worked hard to standardise and enhance our water quality sampling. During 2018 we devised a standardised monitoring protocol which has resulted in a more robust risk based monitoring programme for supplies at risk from Cryptosporidium. This enables our engineering and scientific specialists to identify risks to drinking water supplies quickly and react definitively, and to ensure that the EPA, HSE and the public are informed where water is considered unsafe to drink. Where there are issues, Irish Water has work programmes in place to address these risks quickly and effectively.
“The Report is clear however that much more remains to be done. It identifies that pesticide concentrations are a concern in an increasing number of plants and Irish Water is in full agreement that this is best addressed through catchment management. We are working closely with our partners in the National Pesticide and Drinking Water Action Group to create awareness of the importance of responsible pesticide use. We are advancing Water Safety Plans for all of our larger supplies, with a key emphasis on minimising risks from source to tap.
“Overall, in 2018 public water supplies were 99% compliant which is an extremely high level of compliance with the drinking water regulations. Given the size and scale of the legacy issues and condition of some of the water treatment plants, Irish Water is pleased that this is a solid base from which to build. Irish Water welcome and fully support the work of the EPA as an independent regulator in its reviews of our work and the outcomes being achieved.”