22 November 2016 Go back to News
Impact of lead in drinking water addressed as Irish Water begins priority project in Limerick
Low levels of Orthophosphate to be added to water supply from 30 November, 2016
Following public consultation on Irish Water’s Draft Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan, Irish Water is developing a range of measures to address the impact of lead pipes in drinking water including service replacement, the lining of lead services and the use of filters.
As an interim measure, Irish Water is also commencing orthophosphate treatment until all lead pipes are replaced and Limerick has been identified as a priority project.
By changing the chemical make-up of the water, it is possible to reduce the amount of lead which is picked up from lead pipes and lead plumbing. Orthophosphate treatment forms a protective film around the inside of the pipe providing a barrier between the water and the lead. Orthophosphate used for this purpose is a food grade product and is a clear, odourless liquid which is very common in the beverage industry.
A number of homes in Limerick have confirmed levels of lead in their drinking water higher than the relevant limit allowed under the Drinking Water Regulations so Limerick was confirmed as a priority project for orthophosphate treatment. In addition, the waste water from these homes is not discharged into an inland fresh water river or waterway.
Lead in drinking water presents a health risk, especially to infants and young children for which orthophosphate treatment is the only practical short-term option. Until all lead pipework is replaced, the introduction of orthophosphate treatment in Limerick has the potential to protect customers and reduce lead concentrations below the drinking water regulation limit for properties that have lead in the private distribution system and service connection to the property boundary. Irish Water will begin adding orthophosphate at very low concentrations to the Clareville Water Treatment Plant supplying Limerick City and environs from 30 November 2016.
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 are made from. 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 backyard mains where responsibility is shared. The Department of the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Givernment has established a grant scheme to assist low income households to replace lead pipes.
Jerry Grant, Managing Director of Irish Water, commenting on Irish Water’s Plan to reduce the impact of lead piping in drinking water said ‘Irish Water is working hard to improve the quality and supply of our drinking water. This involves tackling national issues like lead pipes. Limerick has been identified as a priority area, and we are now proceeding with orthophosphate treatment to address the build-up of lead in public pipes and to reduce the risk. This option is extensively used in Britain, Northern Ireland and widely across North America.
People will notice no difference in the taste or smell of their drinking water and there will be no negative effects on any household that does not have lead pipes. This treatment specifically reduces the risk of lead dissolving into our drinking water and is an interim measure as we work on replacing all lead pipework in pipes in homes across the country.”
You can check if your home is supplied from Clareville Water Treatment Plant by entering your address into the search tool on our Water Quality page. It will take up to 24 months before the orthophosphate treatment is effective in all pipes supplying water from the treatment plant. During this period, Irish Water will be monitored by, and will report to, the EPA and HSE on a quarterly basis.
For further information on the health effects of lead in drinking water, please visit the HSE website.
Information on grant assistance for the replacement of lead pipes is available from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.