There are just over 4 weeks remaining to make a submission on Irish Water’s Draft Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan so Irish Water is urging members of the public to have their say on this issue that affects up to 180,000 households around the country.

The 8 week public consultation period will end on Wednesday September 21st. 

Anyone interested can view the draft Plan and associated environmental reports online or watch our short video. During working hours the Plan is available to view at the planning counters of the Local Authority offices.

Exposure to lead is a known serious health risk particularly affecting pregnant women and young children. In recent decades, lead has been removed from petrol and paint. Since then, Irish people have limited exposure to lead except in drinking water where people with lead plumbing in their home can be exposed to low concentrations of lead as it dissolves in drinking water passing through lead pipework on its way to the tap. Because of the known health risks, the limit for lead in drinking water has been reduced to a very low level in EU Drinking Water Regulations (10 parts per billion). Sampling by Irish Water has shown that this limit can be exceeded (in some cases significantly) where water flows through lead pipes.

The Draft Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan is the result of major surveys of the issue, review of international practise, consultation on the issues with key health, environmental and other stakeholders. The plan includes much more widespread sampling (already underway) which is used to inform the public of the risk and help prioritise Irish Water actions. Irish Water is now targeting over 35,000 random samples of water quality annually compared with 3,000 previously. Drinking water produced at our plants is lead free and we have already replaced all lead water mains in the distribution system. We have also started a programme to replace any remaining lead service connections, these are the short pipes that connect the watermain to property boundaries prioritising common or shared backyard service pipes. The greatest risk remaining from lead in drinking water is therefore arising on private property from internal plumbing.

Irish Water is again urging all homeowners whose houses were built before 1980 to check their internal plumbing for lead pipes.  Public drinking water supplies are lead free but lead, which poses a serious health risk, can dissolve in drinking water from internal lead pipes which are common in older homes and buildings.  Irish Water is confident that lead piping has been removed from the public water distribution mains but the utility estimates that approximately 180,000 homes in Ireland and hundreds of commercial and public buildings still have internal lead plumbing, including lead service pipes from the water main to the stopcock. Of the homes affected, about 40,000 are thought to have shared backyard (common service pipes) which Irish Water will be targeting the replacement of over the next 5 years.  

The Health Services Executive has advised the public (HSE Lead FAQs May 2015) that because lead affects the developing brain, the risk from lead exposure is greatest for young children, infants and babies in the womb.  Bottle-fed infants are most affected by lead in drinking water, because for the first 6 months of life, all of their food comes from formula made up with drinking water. Children and infants absorb more lead than adults.

Public side pipework, as far as a property boundary, is the responsibility of Irish Water but all pipes within the property boundary including those in the home are the responsibility of the property owner, except for those 40,000 served by common backyard mains where responsibility is shared. The best and most effective way of dealing with lead in drinking water is to replace all lead pipes and homeowners should seek the advice of a plumber if they are unsure what material the pipes in their home is made from.  The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government has established a grant scheme to assist low income households to replace lead pipes.

Public Consultation

Public consultation on the ‘Draft Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan’ was launched on Wednesday 27th July and will run until 21st September 2016 until which time the draft Plan and associated environmental reports are available to view online any time on the Irish Water Lead section and during working hours at the planning counters of the Local Authority offices. Comments and feedback can be sent to Irish Water by 5pm on 21st of September by email or post as outlined below:-

Email: lead@water.ie

Post:  Lead Public Consultation, Irish Water, Colvill House, 24-26 Talbot St, Dublin 1

The final plan and the accompanying SEA Statement will be published once the public consultation is completed.

Information on the health effects of Lead in Drinking Water is available here:

http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/hl/water/drinkingwater/lead/

Information on Grant Assistance for replacement of Lead Pipes is available here:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current?query=Lead%20grant

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