Thursday 29 September 2016

Irish Water fined €3,000 after failing to improve quality in Galway

Tom Tuite

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

Earlier this year, residents in the Connemara village received boil water notices. Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Earlier this year, residents in the Connemara village received boil water notices. Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Irish Water has pleaded guilty to failing to implement a plan to improve drinking water quality in Co Galway and was ordered to give €3,000 to charity to avoid a criminal conviction.

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The company is being prosecuted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a delay in completing a €1m project to deal with a water quality problem in Carraroe. Earlier this year, residents in the Connemara village received boil water notices.

The prosecution was listed before Judge John O'Neill yesterday at Dublin District Court.

Irish Water pleaded guilty to charges under EU (drinking water) regulations that between December 1, 2015, and January 8 last, it failed to comply with a directive issued by the EPA to implement an action programme for the improvement of the quality of water for human consumption from Carraroe public water supply.

The action was intended to react to parametric values specified for trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are a group of organic chemicals formed when chlorine is used to disinfect water and reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in raw water.

An action plan had been approved by the environmental watchdog agency on September 9, 2014, but the required work was not completed by Irish Water until this year.

Prosecution solicitor Maeve Larkin said the offence can carry a class A fine of €5,000.

Darragh Page, a senior inspector with the EPA, told the court that in drinking water there should be no more than 100mgs of THMs per litre to be safe. However, tests indicated the levels in the water in Carraroe were in excess.

There had been an elevated level for several years until recently, he said.

He agreed with Ms Larkin that the solution was to pre-treat the water using filtration to take out colour or organic matter before using chlorine so the by-product THMs are not formed.

An action plan was agreed with Irish Water but it was not fully complied with until this year, the court heard. In January, five weeks after the deadline, Mr Page visited the treatment plant and saw that it had been unchanged and the level of THMs still exceeded the standards expected. Irish Water has no prior criminal convictions but the court heard that in an earlier prosecution by the EPA, they were given the benefit of the Probation Act for a charge connected to discharge in a Co Louth stream.

Defence counsel Eoghan Cole said the action plan was drafted in good faith and it included a time-frame which was thought realistic. Judge O'Neill told Irish Water to pay €3,000 to a charity which helps people with dementia.

Irish Independent

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