EPA report highlights continuing high quality of public drinking water

99.5% of samples taken in 2020 across Ireland’s 740 public drinking water supplies are compliant for microbiological and chemical standards and producing water that is safe to drink according to the latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Water Report.

The report has also highlighted the continuing reduction in water supplies classed as being at risk by the EPA, with a further 11 supplies removed from the Remedial Action List (RAL) in 2020 benefitting over 100,000 people. There has been more positive news in 2021, with an additional six supplies removed so far this year, benefitting over 660,000 people. Halfway through 2021, the population on the RAL was at its lowest ever figure and Irish Water has action plans in place for all remaining supplies.

In County Louth we have built new drinking water infrastructure in 5 towns across the county, improving water quality and benefitting local communities in Dundalk, Tallanstown, Clogherhead, Omeath and South Louth East Meath. By building this new infrastructure we have improved drinking water for over 73,000 people and facilitated the removal of Clogherhead, Omeath and South Louth East Meath water supplies from the EPA’s RAL.

The scale of investment, the level of national planning and the ongoing delivery of projects and programmes by Irish Water is demonstrated in the EPA report. Key programmes such as the National Disinfection Programme, and the removal of the risk of THMs (Trihalomethanes) and Cryptosporidium in water supplies are ongoing and are vital to ensuring clean, safe drinking water throughout the country. In 2020, 58 Water Treatment Plants (WTP) were built or upgraded, including significant upgrades to the Lough Talt and Staleen plants which collectively addressed long running water quality risks for THMs and Cryptosporidium. Further progress has been made in 2021 with significant upgrades completed at Leixlip Water Treatment Plant, at Stillorgan Reservoir, and at Vartry Water Treatment plant. These works will ensure over 1 million customers will receive a safe and secure supply into the future.

Commenting on the report, Michael Cunniffe, Regional Operations Lead with Irish Water said: “Irish Water acknowledges the report and the important work the EPA undertakes as the supervisory authority for public water supplies. Overall, in 2020 public water supplies were 99.5% compliant which is a world class level of compliance with the drinking water regulations. Given the size and scale of investment needed to upgrade water treatment plants and the wider water network, Irish Water is very pleased to achieve such a high compliance rate.

“During 2020, we made major investments in new and upgraded plants as well as delivering improvement programmes to our plants. We are advancing Drinking Water Safety Plans for all of our larger supplies, with a key emphasis on minimising risks from source to tap. We have engaged extensively and comprehensively with the EPA on this and will prioritise funding towards those schemes at highest risk.

“The report is clear, however, that much more remains to be done to secure water supplies into the future. Irish Water has plans underway to work with Local Authorities and other delivery partners to further enhance our ability to manage public water supplies to the required standards as set out in the Drinking Water Directives into the future. To date critical training has been carried out with all Local Authorities to ensure alarms and controls are in place and operationally effective to ensure public health is protected.”

Irish Water is also making real progress in reducing the number of long-term Boil Water Notices in place around the country. Since the establishment of Irish Water, 263 Boil Water Notices have been lifted, benefiting approx. 1.8 million people. Where risks to water quality are identified through rigorous sampling and testing Boil Water Notices are issued in order to safeguard public health. In all instances immediate action is undertaken to address the underlying causes of the issue to enable the lifting of the notice as soon as it safe to do so. In some cases this may take time as capital investment may be required to address a treatment deficiency. Irish Water has addressed all long-term boil water notices that were in place before it was established, and the average duration of all subsequent notices is decreasing.