Monday 22 December 2014

Residents furious at delay in warning on lead in water

Kathryn Hayes 
and David Raleigh

Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30

Sarah Heaney from Hogan Avenue Kileely pictured with her letter from Limerick City and County Council with the results from a drinking water test.
Sarah Heaney from Hogan Avenue Kileely pictured with her letter from Limerick City and County Council with the results from a drinking water test.

IRISH Water was aware of elevated levels of lead in water in parts of Limerick city five days before residents were advised it was not safe to drink.

More than 2,000 people living in older housing estates on the north side of Limerick city have been advised by the HSE not to drink their water or use it for preparing food, following the detection of high lead levels.

On July 31, 400 households in Ballynanty were issued with a warning on possible elevated levels of lead in drinking water.

And last Tuesday 356 households in Kileely were told that their houses could be affected by similar lead issues.

Irish Water's regional operations manager Katherine Walshe, yesterday confirmed that a meeting was held with the HSE on Friday August 15 to discuss concerns over Kileely.

However, the notices advising people not to drink the water were not distributed until Tuesday afternoon, August 19.

Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan said he is disappointed at the lack of clarity from Irish Water.

Ms Walsh defended the length of time it took to inform residents in Kileely, insisting it acted in a "timely fashion".

"We had a meeting on Friday evening with the HSE and at that point we agreed what course of action we were going to take - and we agreed that I would send out a letter to all of the residents in the Kileely area.

"That took a day or so and to agree where standpipes and taps were going to go and even down to the very basics of writing the letter, and getting it printed and distributed."

Ms Walshe said it was done in a "reasonable period of time".

Pregnant women and young children in particular are urged not to drink water suspected of elevated lead concentrations, as it can affect brain development.

But one expectant mother is furious that she was told her water was safe to drink a day after Irish Water issued the Kilkeely warning. Sarah Heaney lives in the area where residents were advised not to drink tap water on August 19.

However, Ms Heaney had separately had her tap water tested in July, and got results on August 20 telling her that the water was fit for consumption. However, it had apparently not been tested for lead.

Ms Heaney, who described herself as a "high-risk pregnancy", as she is predisposed to preeclampsia, added: "What I don't like is that my letter states that my water is 'compliant' and is 'fit for human consumption' when clearly it is not. My pregnancy is already very stressful."

She said she and her husband Robert and their two-year-old daughter Emma had been drinking tap water recently.

Irish Water says it has accelerated works to replace lead pipes in Ballynanty and Kileely and it hopes to replace all lead pipes before the end of the year.

Irish Independent

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