Catchment News

New EPA Report: Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies 2018

The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies Report 2018, released today, shows that the quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high with 99.9% compliance with microbiological parameters and 99.6% compliance with chemical parameters.

However, the report highlights that the incidence of Cryptosporidium detections has increased in the past three years, posing a serious risk to human health.

The EPA has seen detections of Cryptosporidium in 25 public water supplies in 2018, up from 17 in 2017 and 12 in 2016. Of particular concern are supplies which have inadequate processes in place to treat or remove Cryptosporidium and those where there is no treatment in place at all.


Key Findings for 2018

Quality of Public Water Supplies

  • The quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high
  • Microbiological compliance is 99.9%
  • Chemical compliance is 99.6%
  • Nearly two-thirds (60%) of all boil water notices issued in 2018 were short-term, in place for less than 30 days

Main Issues affecting water quality

  • Increase in detections of the parasite Cryptosporidium
  • High levels of disinfection by-products
  • Persistent pesticide failures
  • Large numbers of lead pipe connections in properties

Progress in 2018

  • Reduction in number of supplies on EPA Remedial Action List from 77 supplies in 2017 to 63 supplies in 2018
  • Irish Water completed disinfection upgrades at 152 drinking water treatment plants
  • Rate of replacement of lead connections by Irish Water has increased

Action Required

  • Achieve good disinfection that keeps water free of harmful bacteria while minimising disinfection by-products (Trihalomethanes)
  • Eliminate lead from our pipes
  • Put Drinking Water Safety Plans in place to assess hazards and take action to protect supplies into the future

Commenting on the report, Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said:

“We are seeing an upward trend in Cryptosporidium contamination in drinking water supplies. We know that Cryptosporidium can cause serious gastrointestinal illness, particularly in young children and the elderly, and the EPA has ensured that Irish Water has investigated each of these Cryptosporidium detections. 

“Irish Water must make certain that water treatment plants are properly and effectively operated to protect public health. Those plants without appropriate treatment for Cryptosporidium need to be prioritised for investment by Irish Water.” 
 
The EPA has added supplies to the EPA Remedial Action List, following its audits of drinking water plants. Irish Water has to prioritise sites on the EPA Remedial Action List and develop action plans for improvements to be completed, by set dates.

Andy Fanning, Programme Manager, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, commented: 

“At the end of 2018, the number of supplies on the EPA’s Remedial Action List had decreased. Unfortunately, that downward trend has been reversed in the first six months of 2019, when we added eight supplies to the Remedial Action List.

“These additions highlight that there are still significant problems at many of Ireland’s water treatment plants, with the potential to harm people’s health. The EPA is particularly concerned about supplies where we have seen poor operational practices at water treatment plants.  Consumers must have confidence that their water supply is not just safe to drink today but will also be safe in the long term.” 

The EPA has also identified priorities for Irish Water to address on a national level to protect and improve public water supplies.

The EPA Drinking Water Report 2018 and the complete list of public water supplies currently on the Remedial Action List – including details of the proposed remedial measures and associated timeframes – is available on the EPA website.


EPA Drinking Water Remedial Action List (RAL)

The EPA’s Remedial Action List (RAL) is a register of public water supplies with the most serious deficiencies and known to be most at risk, where the EPA is requiring Irish Water to take corrective action to ensure the safety and security of the supplies. The EPA has instructed Irish Water to submit an action programme for the improvement of each of these water supplies and has initiated enforcement action where action programmes have not been prepared or implemented to the satisfaction of the EPA. This includes issuing legally binding Directions requiring specific work to be carried out to ensure the safety and security of a water supply.

Since the original RAL was published in 2008, 90% (305) of supplies have been removed from the original list because the necessary remedial actions have been completed. The primary issues addressed to-date include disinfection of E. coli, barriers to Cryptosporidium, adequate treatment for trihalomethanes and operational controls for managing aluminium and turbidity levels. The EPA updates and publishes the RAL on a quarterly basis. 64 supplies remain on the RAL at the end of July 2019 which collectively supply water to 568,170 consumers.

The interactive map below shows the location of the 64 water supplies on the RAL at the end of July 2019. 

Click on a red dot to find out more information about these supplies including the reason the supply is on the RAL and the anticipated completion date for the remedial works.


Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our waterbodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office.

LAWCO

Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.

EPA

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.

DECLG

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.