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Pesticides levels in water supplies in four areas of the country above EU standards - Irish Water

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Four water supplies, one in Kilkenny, two in Limerick and one in Longford currently have a level of pesticides above the set EU standard, according to Irish Water.

While it said these pesticide levels are not a health risk it is making sure that drinking water sources are protected from pesticides, the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group is taking action.

These include informing the public and other local stakeholders on the correct and safe use of pesticides.

The pesticide that is being detected most frequently in drinking water supplies in Ireland is an herbicide called MCPA. This herbicide is in many products used to control thistle, dock and rush.

This increase is because products containing MCPA are being used to control weeds on hard surfaces, in gardens, on farms or in forestry. 

In the coming weeks Irish Water will write to 140,000 homes and businesses on the public water network whose supplies are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Remedial Action List (RAL).

The RAL is the list of ‘at risk’ water supplies where the drinking water quality is not as good as it could be. In 53 of the 55 water supply schemes the water is still safe to drink.

In two schemes, Lough Talt in Sligo and Grangemore in Roscommon, the local communities are currently on a Boil Water Notice making the water unsafe for to drink straight from the tap. Irish Water will outline what we are doing in these 55 areas to improve supply by either an upgrade or a change in how the relevant water treatment plant works.

In the past, Irish Water only contacted homes and businesses if there was a problem with their drinking water supply that was likely to cause an immediate risk to health. Irish Water will continue to do that.

Irish Water consistently updates local communities on their water supply and the work we are doing through the regional media and via our website. In addition to this, on our website water.ie people can enter their home address and get water quality test results going back to 2014. However, the recent Water Services Policy Statement called for better engagement and greater transparency for people using public water supplies. This new direct communication is an important part of helping the public to understand what Irish Water do.

Homes and businesses in 16 counties across the country on 55 different water supply schemes will receive a detailed booklet outlining the issues with their water supply which might vary from elevated THMs; inadequate barriers for cryptosporidium; poor turbidity removal; presence of low levels of pesticides; aluminium exceedance; or details of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) audit of a plant.

The individual booklet will explain in detail to householders where their drinking water comes from; why Irish Water are writing to them; how Irish Water know that their water is safe to drink; information about regulation and testing; what Irish Water is doing to fix their specific water supply; and where they can get more information.

Any drinking water sample showing a result above a specified water quality standard is notified immediately to our environmental regulator, the EPA, in line with statutory requirements. The EPA is the supervisory authority for public water supplies and regulates Irish Water in terms of our ability to produce and supply compliant water to our customers. If there is a concern about a possible health risk from the drinking water we produce, the HSE is consulted.

Speaking about issuing of letters and booklets, Head of Asset Management for Irish Water, Sean Laffey said, Irish Water has worked closely with the EPA to identify the public water schemes that need a plan or action to improve their water treatment.

"We are prioritising our investment in these treatment plants. Providing safe, clean drinking water for all is our first goal.

"In 2015, 121 drinking water schemes were on the EPA’s Remedial Action List. Irish Water has a goal to ensure to remove all of these schemes are removed from the list by 2021.

"Everyone we are writing to has access to drinking water that is safe to drink, except for those two schemes that currently have Boil Water Notices. We monitor and test our supplies and if this monitoring indicates a potential water quality issue we consult with the HSE. If there is any potential risk to public health from the drinking water we supply we inform the public immediately. If anyone has any questions or concerns they should contact Irish Water."

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