Uisce Éireann engaging with Local Authorities following two reportable drinking water incidents
18 September 2021
Updated Uisce Éireann statement on water quality issues in Ballymore Eustace and Gorey
Uisce Éireann 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 Uisce Éireann, 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, Uisce Éireann, said: “Uisce Éireann 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. Uisce Éireann 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. Uisce Éireann 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).
“Uisce Éireann 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. Uisce Éireann will work with each Local Authority over the coming two weeks, conducting re-fresher training on incident reporting for all plants. Where appropriate, Uisce Éireann will now put in place a technician on site, to ensure the continued safety of water treatment plants.
Uisce Éireann works in partnership with Local Authorities across the country to deliver safe drinking water to the public and return wastewater safely to the environment. Uisce Éireann 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 Uisce Éireann became aware of the issues. Uisce Éireann 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, Uisce Éireann, said: “Uisce Éireann’s priority is to protect public health. In both these incidents Uisce Éireann and our partners in the Local Authorities fell short of the standards we set ourselves. We operate a service level agreement where both Uisce Éireann 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 Uisce Éireann of issues relating to the disinfection process at the plants, potentially put public health at risk.
"Uisce Éireann 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. Uisce Éireann 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 Uisce Éireann 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 Uisce Éireann but came to light on investigation of consequential issues at the sludge facility, twelve days after it occurred.
Uisce Éireann immediately consulted with the HSE but as the incident had passed, immediate public notification was not required. Uisce Éireann also formally notified the EPA of the incident, and the site was audited on 9/9/21 with the EPA, HSE, Uisce Éireann and Dublin City Council (DCC) in attendance.
Uisce Éireann 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, Uisce Éireann has increased its presence on site to review the escalation and response protocols. DCC Management and plant staff are working in collaboration with Uisce Éireann staff. Refresher training is being provided by the Uisce Éireann Compliance team to plant engineers and supervisors on how and what water quality incidents should be notified to Uisce Éireann.
Incident Report Gorey:
Uisce Éireann, 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. Uisce Éireann 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.
Uisce Éireann issued communications to customers and stakeholders via elected representatives and on the Uisce Éireann website as soon as a number of reports of illness in the community were received. Uisce Éireann has been working with the EPA and Wexford County Council to investigate the incident. Uisce Éireann 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.
Uisce Éireann 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.