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EU Court of Justice finds Ireland failed to meet safe drinking water standards

  • EU Court of Justice finds Ireland failed to meet safe drinking water standards
  • The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled that the concentration of trihalomethanes (THMs) exceeds safe levels in a number of water supply zones across the country.
  • The court requires Ireland to comply with the Drinking Water Directive and ensure that THM concentrations in drinking water do not exceed 100 μg/l.

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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has found Ireland guilty of failing to ensure safe drinking water, ruling that the concentration of trihalomethanes (THMs) exceeds safe levels in a number of water supply zones across the country, informs The Journal.

In November 2021, the European Commission decided to refer Ireland to the CJEU for failure to comply with the requirements of the Drinking Water Directive, which requires drinking water to be safe from substances that could pose a danger to human health. At the time the Commission argued the level of THMs in drinking water had long exceeded the value established in the Directive, and continued to do so in 30 water supply zones in the country, serving 200,000 people.

Trihalomethanes (THMs) form as a result of disinfection processes, when naturally occurring dissolved organic material in the water reacts with chlorine.

The judgment of the CJEU ruled the concentration of THMs in a number of areas had exceeded safety limits since at least 2012, while the deadline for compliance was 2003. The Commission claimed that the creation of Irish Water in 2013 ((now Uisce Éireann) demonstrates that Ireland had been slow to act, given that the transposition deadline for the Drinking Water Directive had already elapsed 10 years previously.

The court’s rules requires Ireland to comply with the judgment without delay. Although Ireland is free to define how it implements the Directive, it has to ensure that THM concentrations in drinking water do not exceed 100 μg/l throughout its territory. Meanwhile the European Commission may bring further action and seek financial penalties for the compliance delay with the Drinking Water Directive.

Irish Water (Uisce Éireann) has issued a statement saying it has “prioritised investment in the schemes identified in the Court of Justice of the European Union infringement case as at risk from THM exceedances”; only 5 of the original 74 public water schemes in the first European Court of justice infringement letter remain to be addressed, and will continue to prioritise the remaining schemes identified by the court as quickly as possible.

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