The report notes that over 99% of water samples were in compliance

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognised the continuing high quality of the public water supply in its annual Drinking Water Quality Report 2019. The report notes that over 99% of water samples were in compliance with bacterial and chemical limits across Irish Water’s 900 drinking water supplies. The report also shows Irish Water’s progress in relation to reducing the number of supplies on the Remedial Action List (RAL), improvement works completed in 2019 allowed eleven supplies to be removed from this list.

Progress

The EPA report demonstrates the work done in 2019 in key areas such as the National Disinfection Programme, removing THMs (Trihalomethanes) and Cryptosporidium risk assessment, which are vital to ensuring clean, safe drinking water throughout the country. By the end of 2019, Irish Water had assessed 811 of the 864 plants in the National Disinfection Programme and completed upgrades at 230 plants. Work is underway at a further 35 sites.

Risk assessments

The EPA highlights the work Irish Water has done on Cryptosporidium risk assessments and called out the importance of carrying out these assessments in reducing the likelihood of Cryptosporidium breaking through and causing illness or of a boil water notice being required. As a result of these measures, the EPA noted a decrease in the number of E.coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium detections and also a decrease in the number of THM failures in 2019. Remedial works were completed on a number of drinking water supplies and action plans and completion dates have been submitted for the remaining supplies.

Removing lead connections

Water leaving Irish Water’s treatment plants is lead free and our records show that there are no lead public water mains in Ireland. On the public side Irish Water is currently working on the replacement of all known public side lead. There are some 180,000 lead service connections in Ireland and Irish Water is replacing these as part of our €500m Leakage Reduction Programme. As detailed in the Lead Mitigation Plan we are also looking at the feasibility of adding orthophosphate to water supplies. This is a food grade additive that coats pipes and thereby reduces the risk of lead in drinking water. A pilot scheme was introduced in the Clareville Plant in Limerick and we are looking to roll this out to other plants during 2019. The progress on replacing public side lead connections and service pipe has decreased in 2020, against a backdrop of significant progress made in 2019, where 15,000 connections were replaced against a target of 9,000.

Commenting on the report, Eamon Gallen, General Manager of Irish Water, said “Irish Water welcomes and fully supports the work of the EPA as an independent regulator in its reviews of our work and the outcomes being achieved. Overall, in 2019 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.

“During 2019, 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. In total, Irish Water is investing €2 billion between 2014 and 2021 to improve drinking water quality.

Catchment management

“As the EPA’s report highlights, pesticide concentrations are a concern in an increasing number of supplies 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. There were over 70 Pesticide files open when this group was formed in 2016 and we expect the revised number to be confirmed shortly as being 29. We are grateful for the work of all of the stakeholders on the Group and area pleased with this excellent progress.

Water safety plans

“We are advancing Water Safety Plans for all of our larger supplies, with a key emphasis on minimising risks from source to tap. We have engaged extensively and comprehensively with the EPA on this and will prioritise funding towards those schemes at highest risk.

Remedial Action List

“While Irish Water made progress in reducing the number of schemes on the Remedial Action List from 63 to 52, the population affected increased. This was in large part due to the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant which serves a population of 600,000 going onto the List. Work to replace the filters and to install UV treatment at the plant is underway and due for completion in the coming months making the Plant more robust and reliable. Across the other schemes on the List, investment decisions across the business need to be assessed against one another to determine which will deliver the best reduction in risk and we have engaged extensively with the EPA on this.

Safeguarding our water

“The report is clear, however, that much more remains to be done. The building, repair and upgrading of Irish Water’s water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, water and sewer network will require a multi-billion euro investment programme over many years. Irish Water is committed to providing a safe and reliable water supply, protecting the environment and supporting the growth of homes and businesses. Irish Water’s investment plan prioritises key outcomes such as leakage; removing water supplies from the on the EPA’s Remedial Action List; and stopping the discharge of raw sewage into water bodies. In preparing our Capital Investment Plan, Irish Water has optimised investment decisions by prioritising the best possible service improvements, while maximising value-for-money. The list of projects and programmes is continuously being refined based on new and emerging needs and is subject to budget, technical and environmental constraints, as well as statutory approvals.”

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