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Millions of litres down the drain because Irish Water couldn't spot trouble in pipeline

Sean Barrett


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Go with the flow: Tony Keohane, chairman of Ervia, the semi-state multi-utility company, then housing minister Eoghan Murphy and Eamon Gallen, of Irish Water, at the launch in February of the Vartry-to-Callowhill link official opening, which replaced a 4km tunnel constructed in the 1860s.
Photo: Naoise Culhane

Go with the flow: Tony Keohane, chairman of Ervia, the semi-state multi-utility company, then housing minister Eoghan Murphy and Eamon Gallen, of Irish Water, at the launch in February of the Vartry-to-Callowhill link official opening, which replaced a 4km tunnel constructed in the 1860s. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Go with the flow: Tony Keohane, chairman of Ervia, the semi-state multi-utility company, then housing minister Eoghan Murphy and Eamon Gallen, of Irish Water, at the launch in February of the Vartry-to-Callowhill link official opening, which replaced a 4km tunnel constructed in the 1860s. Photo: Naoise Culhane

On Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned about the health risk posed by Irish Water's old pipe network. The agency warned that the slow rate of lead pipe replacement by Irish Water would postpone their replacement by as much as 60 years.

Lead pipes pollute water supplies, which studies suggest leads to brain damage in the young and infants, and in adults may contribute to kidney damage and high blood pressure. Disinfection keeps water free of harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites - but in pipes "lead presents a different problem where the only remedy is to remove the lead network", according to the EPA programme manager speaking on Monday.

The old lead pipes adversely commented upon also have an economic cost as they leak water. The McLoughlin Report on Local Government Efficiency (July 2010) found that 41.2pc of water produced by local authorities in Ireland was "unaccounted for". It never reached the customer. Between the reservoir and the household, 41.2pc of water leaked out of the system. Roscommon had the highest unaccounted for water, with 58.6pc failing to reach the customer.