Irish Water faces court action over bug threats
Irish Water is facing three separate legal actions for failing to provide safe drinking water to households.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that the utility company is being prosecuted for failing to comply with directions to replace lead pipes and remove dangerous chemicals and bugs from supplies in Donegal, Kerry and Mayo.
The company is joined in proceedings by the local authorities responsible for the water supply until January last, before ownership of the network transferred to Irish Water.
This means that both parties are being prosecuted, but in all cases the requirement to complete the works pre-dated Irish Water taking control of the water system. One case is listed for hearing in November, and summonses have been issued in the other two.
The first prosecution involves the alleged failure of Kerry County Council and Irish Water to replace lead distribution mains at St Brendan's Park in Tralee.
One house in the estate was found to have four times the recommended level of lead, and the works are not expected to be completed until the middle of next year.
The company is charged with failing to comply with a direction issued by the EPA to complete the replacement of lead distribution mains. It faces a fine of up to €4,000.
Irish Water and Donegal County Council have also been summonsed to appear in court in relation to failing to ensure that drinking water supplies met quality standards around trihalomethanes (THMs), a group of chemicals produced when water is not properly treated.
The complaint relates to the Letterkenny supply, which serves 19,500 people.
An EPA audit, conducted last November, noted that the council had not complied with a direction issued in March 2011 to address failures around THMs, noting the problem dated to as far back as October 2008.
The third case is in Mayo, where two charges are pending.
The first relates to an alleged failure to install a treatment system to remove cryptosporidium in the Treannagleragh public water supply which serves 45 people.
The second relates to the alleged failure to install and operate an appropriate disinfection system on the same supply.
An audit of the plant in February this year noted that the water was "untreated" and that two directions issued in October 2013 to upgrade the works had not been complied with.
The supply has been on a boil water notice since September last year.
Originally built as the main supply for the town of Kiltimagh, representatives from Irish Water and Mayo County Council said locals had "objected" to the supply being disinfected.
However, the auditors noted: "Irish Water did not provide any evidence on the day of the audit that it was going to install the disinfection system or ensure that consumers receive an adequately treated water supply.
"It is unacceptable that consumers are receiving an untreated water supply that is vulnerable to contamination."
Irish Water said that it was in "regular dialogue" with the EPA in relation to enforcement matters, and had provided "realistic timetables" to complete necessary works.
"Irish Water continues to make best endeavours to comply with EPA directions, having regard to all relevant factors," it added.