Sunday 15 September 2019

Water treatment chemicals are stockpiled as the threat of UK crash-out deepens


Imports: 90pc of chemicals used to treat water are brought in by sea at Rosslare and other ports. Photo: PA
Imports: 90pc of chemicals used to treat water are brought in by sea at Rosslare and other ports. Photo: PA
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Irish Water says vital chemicals used to make drinking water clean and safe are being stockpiled, as it acknowledged a hard Brexit could have an impact on water treatment.

The utility said suppliers who use the UK landbridge are building up stores of chemicals to ensure any effect on the treatment of drinking water will be minimal.

It is the first time Irish Water has publicly acknowledged a hard Brexit could potentially affect water treatment in Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The utility has also admitted its suppliers are having to find alternative sources for some of the chemicals used to treat drinking water, which it currently imports from mainland UK.

Around 90pc of supplies are sourced from mainland Europe, according to Irish Water. While the majority is directly delivered, the remainder is imported via the UK landbridge, which many exporters and importers use to transport goods to and from continental Europe.

These are likely to be affected by the expected delays at ports if the UK goes through with a chaotic crash-out Brexit in 10 weeks' time.

"Our suppliers who utilise the landbridge are currently ensuring that, insofar as possible, they have sufficient stocks of chemicals.

"Stores will continue to be built over the coming weeks to ensure a minimal, if any, impact on water treatment," said a spokesperson for Ervia, Irish Water's parent company.

Of the remaining 10pc sourced from the UK, the spokesperson said: "Our suppliers are exploring alternative sources in mainland Europe.

"At this point, there are no immediate concerns as to the availability of the most critical water treatment chemicals in the event of a hard Brexit."

The comments were made in response to queries from the Irish Independent about Irish Water's preparedness for a no-deal Brexiit.

Leaked UK government papers that emerged last Sunday outlined concerns around fresh water shortages in the UK due to possible interruptions in importing water treatment chemicals.

In February it emerged Northern Ireland Water is stockpiling purification treatments as part of its Brexit plans with months' worth of additional stocks built up at its own premises and at supplier warehouses.

Irish Water has been working on contingency plans to ensure there are sufficient stocks to treat water in this country for the past year.

The spokesperson said: "Irish Water has engaged with, and continues to engage with our key suppliers of capital and operational services, including works contractors, laboratory service providers, Design Build and Operate contractors and chemicals suppliers.

"Following these meetings, we are confident there will be no interruption to the provision of water and wastewater services nationally as a result of Brexit.


"We will continue to monitor the situation closely over the coming weeks."

In order to make water taken from rivers and lakes drinkable, Irish Water must carry out a complex process to ensure it is not contaminated by exposure to outside elements such as weather or farming and commercial run off.

Water is screened to remove large items such as sticks and stones before chemicals known as coagulant and flocculant are added.

A filtration and disinfection process is also carried out with chlorine typically added to the water either in liquid or gas form under careful controls.

Some treatment plants also pass drinking water through UV light before it then pumped into storage reservoirs.

Irish Independent

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