Saturday 27 May 2017

Small water schemes pose public health risk

Boil water notices were imposed on 94 private water supplies serving businesses and homes during 2015, affecting more than 5,400 people, due to a risk of e-coli and other dangerous bugs. Photo: Getty Images
Boil water notices were imposed on 94 private water supplies serving businesses and homes during 2015, affecting more than 5,400 people, due to a risk of e-coli and other dangerous bugs. Photo: Getty Images
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

More than 60 private water supplies serving businesses including nursing homes and hotels were found to be contaminated with human or animal waste at least once during 2015, a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveals.

Boil water notices were imposed on 94 private water supplies serving businesses and homes during 2015, affecting more than 5,400 people, due to a risk of e-coli and other dangerous bugs. This compares with a total of 3,770 people affected by boil water notices in public supplies today.

The EPA has warned that these private supplies are at increased risk of contamination, and that many are not subject to adequate monitoring. It finds that of 2,676 private water supplies, 37pc were not monitored at all for e-coli. This includes 92 public group water schemes, where water is supplied by Irish Water but the pipe network is privately operated, 30 private group water schemes and 864 small private supplies that serve houses, commercial premises and public buildings.

"Monitoring results show that private water supplies to commercial businesses (hotels, B&Bs, pubs) or to buildings where the public has access (schools, crechès, campsites) are at greater risk of being contaminated," the EPA's special report on water quality in private supplies stated.

"The report highlights that more than 60 of these supplies were found to be contaminated with human or animal waste at least once during the reporting year."

The report also stated that up to 30pc of the 170,000 household wells across the State may be contaminated from human and animal waste. Water quality from supplies serving more than 50 people or supplying 10,000 litres a day should be monitored at least twice a year, and abstraction points and wells fenced off to prevent animal access.

If a water supplier was not taking action to ensure safety, local authorities should use their enforcement powers, it stated.

Irish Independent

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