Mothers tell of illness fears over high chlorine levels in tap water
A mother has spoken of her fear that elevated chlorine levels in the tap water supply could affect her unborn baby.
The household of Jana Lunden (42), from Staffordstown, near Dunboyne, Co Meath, was among more than 1,000 in the south Meath area warned yesterday not to use water for drinking or washing.
Ms Lunden, who is 20-weeks pregnant with her second child, said she had noticed over the weekend that her tap water had a strong smell.
"When I spoke to Irish Water, I was told to just put it in the fridge overnight and the smell will go away," she said. "When I had a bath, it was the same feeling you get in a highly chlorinated swimming pool. My eyes were sore and my nose was running."
She was shocked when the utility revealed the water had elevated levels of chlorine, making it unsafe.
"I'm 20-weeks pregnant and I'm taking a bath every night," she explained. "I'm going to book an emergency scan. I spoke to my doctor who explained there can be a risk with birth defects," she said.
Ms Lunden said her two-year-old daughter has been drinking 12 to 15 fluid ounces of water a day and has been also feeling unwell.
She was angry Irish Water had to be notified of the problem and didn't seem to have an automated warning system.
Her view was echoed by mother-of-three Aneta Chacala (40), from Harlockstown, Co Meath. "We live a very healthy lifestyle and we try to keep chemicals out," she said. "We spend so much to live healthy and then this happens with the water."
Ms Chacala said she was worried about the effect of the chlorine on her children Sienna (1), Luciana (3) and Juliana (5).
"There should be a system in place that automatically warns when there is a problem like this. It has happened before, where there has been a strong smell from the water," she added.
Ms Chacala said one reason she had opposed water charges was issues regarding the water quality in the area.
"Water is a right. I'm looking at how I can make a formal complaint about this," she said.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Damien O'Reilly has been working with residents to bring the issue to the attention of Irish Water. "I am deeply concerned about this. People had been bringing this to attention over the weekend and only now has a warning been issued.
"We need to be told why it took so long for Irish Water to identify the problem," he said.
His party colleague, TD Thomas Byrne, said a "full explanation" was needed from Irish Water swiftly. He said the townlands affected by the 'no drink and no wash' warning include: Kilcloon, Moygaddy, Killeany, Kilgraigue, Harristown, Brownstown, Ballynare, Butlerstown, Staffordstown, Brownrath, Blackhall Little, Waynestown, Harlockstown, and Ballymacoll in Co Meath.
"It is not yet clear as to how elevated chlorine levels occurred. We need an urgent explanation for the illnesses and injuries already suffered by local residents in the Kilcloon area," Mr Byrne said.
Irish Water last night said it had not been contacted about any incidents of sick children.
But it reiterated that customers must not drink the water, use it for food preparation or wash in the water until further notice.
"Customers are advised to draw down water from attic/storage tank, customers should flush toilets or run bathroom taps intermittently," a spokesperson said. "As tanks refill, chlorine levels in the storage tank will return to normal."