Irish Water engaging with Local Authorities following two reportable drinking water incidents

18 September 2021

Updated Irish Water statement on water quality issues in Ballymore Eustace and Gorey

Irish Water today met with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and the Chief Executives of Dublin City Council and Wexford County Council. The meeting followed yesterday’s announcements by Irish Water, the Minister and the EPA on drinking water incidents in Gorey and Ballymore Eustace Water Treatment Plants.

It is important to note that these incidents have been rectified and the water supply from the two plants is safe to drink.

Niall Gleeson, Managing Director, Irish Water, said: “Irish Water agrees with the Minister and the EPA that both incidents are unacceptable. In both instances, late notification of issues relating to the disinfection process at the plants potentially put public health at risk. In discussions today with the Chief Executives of Wexford and Dublin City Council we reconfirmed that all measures would be taken to ensure there would be no re-occurrence of drinking water issues and can confirm to all customers the water is safe to drink. Irish Water has engaged again with all Local Authorities on the need to report incidents to allow for timely risk assessments to protect public health.

“This incident underlines the importance of creating a Single Public Utility where service delivery is controlled and managed by one organisation. Irish Water is engaging via the Workplace Relations Commission with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Local Authorities and Trade Unions as part of talks to create a Single Public Utility (SPU).

“Irish Water also continues to consult with HSE on the outbreak of illnesses in Gorey and with Wexford County Council on a programme of works at the water treatment plant. We would like to apologise to customers for the delay in communicating the incident and the water treatment plant failing to meet the appropriate level of disinfection.

We are continuing our work with Local Authorities across the country to prioritise the supply of safe, secure drinking water supplies to all our customers. Irish Water will work with each Local Authority over the coming two weeks, conducting re-fresher training on incident reporting for all plants. Where appropriate, Irish Water will now put in place a technician on site, to ensure the continued safety of water treatment plants.

Previous Updates

Irish Water works in partnership with Local Authorities across the country to deliver safe drinking water to the public and return wastewater safely to the environment. Irish Water is working closely with Dublin City Council and Wexford County Council following drinking water incidents that are now resolved at Ballymore Eustace and Gorey Water Treatment Plants. Both incidents were reported to the EPA and consulted with the HSE as soon as Irish Water became aware of the issues. Irish Water agrees that the issues identified by the EPA require urgent action. In particular the process around notifiable incidents to protect public health. 

Eamon Gallen, General Manager, Irish Water, said: “Irish Water’s priority is to protect public health. In both these incidents Irish Water and our partners in the Local Authorities fell short of the standards we set ourselves. We operate a service level agreement where both Irish Water and our partners in the Local Authorities are required to follow all guidelines to ensure drinking water incidents are immediately reported to the EPA and HSE. In both instances, late notification to Irish Water of issues relating to the disinfection process at the plants, potentially put public health at risk.

"Irish Water has engaged again with all Local Authorities on the need to report incidents to allow for timely risk assessments to protect public health. In Gorey and Ballymore Eustace, working with the Local Authorities, additional measures have been put in place to ensure public water supplies are safe to drink. Irish Water is currently engaging via the Workplace Relations Commission with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Local Authorities and Trade Unions as part of talks to create a Single Public Utility (SPU). This incident underlines the importance of creating a SPU where service delivery is controlled and managed by one organisation.

"It is critical that the SPU be progressed as a matter of urgency to transform how water services are structured and delivered. This is the necessary step required to build a world class public water utility and Irish Water is committed to continuing our engagement with all stakeholders through agreed mechanisms and forums in the coming months.

Incident Report Ballymore Eustace:

On Friday 20/08/2021, the coagulation dosing system in Ballymore Eustace water treatment plant partially failed. The event occurred out of normal business hours. The Cryptosporidium barrier, and to a lesser degree the disinfection barrier, were temporarily compromised. The resultant incident was not initially reported to Irish Water but came to light on investigation of consequential issues at the sludge facility, twelve days after it occurred.

Irish Water immediately consulted with the HSE but as the incident had passed, immediate public notification was not required. Irish Water also formally notified the EPA of the incident, and the site was audited on 9/9/21 with the EPA, HSE, Irish Water and Dublin City Council (DCC) in attendance.

Irish Water is responding in line with its Incident Management Protocols and is in the process of carrying out a post incident and process review. In addition, Irish Water has increased its presence on site to review the escalation and response protocols. DCC Management and plant staff are working in collaboration with Irish Water staff. Refresher training is being provided by the Irish Water Compliance team to plant engineers and supervisors on how and what water quality incidents should be notified to Irish Water. 

Incident Report Gorey:

Irish Water, working in partnership with Wexford County Council, have investigated an issue with the treatment process that occurred at the plant between August 19th and 24th and can confirm that it has since been resolved. Irish Water was made aware that there had been an issue with the treatment process at the Creagh water treatment plant on the 26th of August and immediately notified the EPA. The HSE was also consulted on this date. Following consultation with the HSE, they advised that a Boil Water Notice on the supply was not necessary at this point as the incident had passed and the plant was operating correctly. There have been no issues at the Water Treatment Plant since August 24th.

Irish Water issued communications to customers and stakeholders via elected representatives and on the Irish Water website as soon as a number of reports of illness in the community were received. Irish Water has been working with the EPA and Wexford County Council to investigate the incident. Irish Water is also reviewing the disinfection and filtration process at the plant and continue to liaise with the EPA, and our partners in Wexford County Council, to ensure there is no repeat of the issue, with a programme of works now in place. A virtual EPA audit was completed on 7th September and a further EPA site visit was carried out on Thursday 16th September.  

Irish Water and Wexford County Council are reviewing their processes and would like to apologise to customers for the delay in communicating the incident and would like to assure the public all steps are being taken to avoid any reoccurrence.