Warning against digging wells to avoid paying water charges
HOMEOWNERS have been warned not to dig private wells in an effort to avoid water charges because of health concerns.
More than one in 10 private wells was contaminated with E coli last year.
The bug can result in conditions ranging from mild gastroenteritis to severe diarrhoea and, in some cases, blood poisoning and kidney failure.
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Drinking Water Report for 2012 says a "significant portion" of private wells are contaminated.
It warned that homeowners could be putting their families' health at risk.
"With the introduction of water charges, consumers may be tempted to drill private wells in an attempt to reduce costs," it says.
"EPA analysis indicates that a significant portion of private wells are contaminated and not suitable for consumption without treatment. As such, private homeowners need to be aware that if they replace their supply from the public mains with a private well, they are taking on a major responsibility of ensuring that the water is fit for purpose. Owners of private wells should ensure that they are designed, located, installed and maintained properly. Otherwise, they are putting their health and that of their family at risk."
About 10pc of the population is served by private wells, but the water quality tends to be inferior to that provided by local authorities, the report finds. One in every nine (147, or 11.3pc) was found to be contaminated with E coli last year, up from 82 (7.7pc) in 2011.
"The quality of drinking water from private supplies remains inferior to that from public supplies," EPA spokesman Ger O'Leary said.
"In 2012, the HSE reported a doubling of the number of VTEC cases, which is a particularly harmful form of E coli.
"Transmission of VTEC can be from person to person, or be waterborne or foodborne. The second most common transmission route reported by the HSE is waterborne transmission. Disinfection kills all E coli including VTEC and, while public water supplies are disinfected, not all private wells are."