830,000 face dangerous water supply as 108 plants await works
More than 830,000 people could be forced to boil their drinking water unless Irish Water upgrades 108 treatment plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said 86,000 people had been forced to boil their water this year to make it safe - double the number in 2015 - and sustained investment in the network was needed to eliminate health threats.
It also revealed it had issued 31 legally binding directions to Irish Water to complete works across the country, adding that six of these were "avoidable" but were issued because the utility failed to respond with detailed action plans to complete safety works.
The details are contained in the 'Drinking Water Report' for public supplies published this morning.
It revealed that overall drinking-water quality remains high, but that the public is subject to health risks due to a sustained lack of investment over years.
"There are 108 supplies on the Remedial Action List [RAL, meaning they need upgrades], down from 115 last year," EPA senior inspector Darragh Page said. "There hasn't been a huge drop and that's a concern. Those supplies need to be upgraded sooner rather than later."
He said that the 31 directions were issued to Irish Water after the utility failed to provide detailed information on upgrade works where problems had been identified. "In some cases they didn't come back with an adequate response. In other cases, we have requested information and the responses weren't what they should have been.
"They're all avoidable directions. In other cases, we weren't getting a definitive plan for the RAL. They would have a direction to commit to an action."
The report revealed that 99.9pc of water samples tested complied with biological standards, and 99.4pc with chemical standards. Some 35 boil water notices were in place during 2015, affecting nearly 40,000 people. But the EPA said so far this year, 86,000 people had to boil their water to make it safe to drink.
Of the 108 supplies on the RAL, 73 have a problem with THMs. These chemicals are a by-product of the disinfection process, and are linked with increased risk of cancer.
The European Commission has begun an infringement case against Ireland for failing to tackle this issue. Irish Water said it had set aside funding of €300m to address THM problems in the network.
"We have replaced an ad-hoc approach with a more systematic and coherent programme combined with increased investment and enhanced operation," managing director Jerry Grant said, adding that its strategy was resulting in higher water-quality standards and benefits to communities.