Saturday 21 July 2018

Skin rashes, stomach problems and pet fish dying in tanks - locals say inadequate water supply 'is not a once-off issue'

  • Residents in Meath claim illnesses from inadequate water supply 'are not a once-off issue'
  • Locals say they have been dealing with chlorine issues 'for more than a year'
  • People now demanding answers from Irish Water over high levels of chlorine in water supply
(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Sasha Brady

Residents affected by a warning notice issued by Irish Water claim they have been suffering from an inadequate water supply for more than a year.

Thousands in Meath were affected by a water warning notice issued last week - but locals say they have been experiencing a range of health issues for months.

The notice, from Irish Water, advised residents against using their water taps due to high levels of chlorine in the water for a period of 24 hours.

But one local councillor has claimed residents have been complaining of stomach problems, rashes, and have even noted pet fish dying in water tanks.

Fianna Fail's Councillor Damien O'Reilly said that a lot of residents are angry and demand answers. He said he logged the issue with Irish Water on Monday, two days before the notice.

"There's a total lack of confidence and trust in Irish Water among residents," he told Independent.ie.

"I've heard a lot of people complain of stomach problems, fluid on the lungs, children suffering from - what their parents believe - are chemical rashes. These problems can all be attributed to chlorine poisoning. I was speaking to a pregnant woman who was so worried she went to get a scan.

"I've heard reports of pet fishes dying in their tanks because of the water."

Irish Water said the warning followed a "mechanical issue" that caused the chlorine levels to increase. The company said they acted upon advice from the HSE to issue the ban when a number of customers reported feeling unwell.

However, a number of Irish Water customers have now been in touch with Independent.ie to advise that they have had issues with their water supply long before the warning notice was issued.

Some households claim the issues with their water supply has been ongoing for more than a year and they've experienced a range of health issues as a result.

Cllr O'Reilly said residents informed him that they have presented to their GPs, complaining of:

  • Rashes and eczema
  • Blotchy skin
  • Eye irritation and blurred vision
  • Pulmonary edema (fluid on lungs)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Thrush

In an email to Cllr Damien O'Reilly, seen by Independent.ie, Irish Water confirmed that a reading at Kilclone School indicated a chlorine level of 6.9mg/litre(maximum limit is 5.0mg/litre).

"They can't tell us what type of chlorine is in the water or how long it's been above the maximum permissible limit," said Cllr O'Reilly.

The Fianna Fail representative said he'll be seeking answers to the residents' concerns.

Natalija Krupska from Rathaldron Court, Navan Town said that her family, including her husband and two young children, started to develop rashes and eczema last summer. They couldn't identify the cause of the problem at first.

A few weeks later, Natalija and her husband were away on a two-week holiday when her mother-in-law moved in to the family home to take care of their children. While she was living in the house she also started to develop rashes on her skin, especially under her eyes and around her neck.

"We came back from our holiday and the poor woman... her skin was so red and flushed," said Natalija.

In the meantime, Natalija's babysitter moved into the same area and started to develop the same problems.

"She was so panicked that she was ready to call an ambulance the first time it happened. It was then that we realised it must be the water, that there must be something wrong with it."

Natalija carried out independent tests on the water and found high levels of chlorine, copper and alkaline in the water.

She then contacted Irish Water to explain the situation and they sent an engineer to test the water.

"The man who came out carried out tests straight away and confirmed that the levels of chlorine in the water was two times above the limit.

"But nothing has been done. I contacted Irish Water again and they said that nobody else in the area has complained so the issue must be with my water tank.

"It's so frustrating. I paid my water bills when they were introduced. I didn't resist the charges because I thought paying for the service would improve the water quality in the area but I was wrong. In the end I just gave up trying to get a solution from them and fixed the problem myself."

Natalija and her husband installed a filtering system in the home for €1,2000 in September with an additional annual cost of €500.

"The rashes and eczema disappeared as soon as we got the filters. My hair had been so thin from the water but it feels at least three times thicker now. I know that might not sound like a big deal but it's important. Can you imagine what that water was doing to our insides?"

Another woman, who did not wish to be named, said her parents, who live in Kilmainhamwood in County Meath, have had a long-standing issue with their water supply.

She said she visited her parents at home in Meath three or four times in the past five months and noticed a strong smell of bleach in water each time. She said her parents experienced a range of gastrointestinal problems as a result.

"I was up home last week as both my parents have been sick. Both started with gastrointestinal problems (they were at the doctor). Also my sister was up all night after visiting them with diarrhea. My dad developed the flu and a bad chest infection after that, he was put on antibiotics and steroids.

"My mother has just been released from hospital, she was very sick, what started off as a 'stomach bug' ended up with double bacterial pneumonia.

"I bought 16 litres of [bottled] water last week and told them not to drink the water for their tea (just to be safe), now I read in the news that this is widespread. It's a disgrace in this day and age. Once again, Ireland like a third world country."

The woman said that the water supply should be constantly monitored to pick up on unsafe levels of chlorine before it makes people sick.

"Isn't there a body to keep a constant check on water quality? Do we really have to taste bleach in our tea as a tip off as to something being off? 

"We would have never had made a correlation between my parents recent illnesses and the water they were drinking, but I am really beginning to think otherwise. I'm really scared."

Independent.ie are waiting for comment from Irish Water.

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