The EPA took six prosecutions against Irish Water for failure to upgrade water supplies in Donegal last year
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took six prosecutions against Irish Water for failure to upgrade water supplies in Donegal last year.
The EPA Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies Report 2018 shows the agency prosecuted Irish Water for failure to complete upgrade works in Cashilard, Gortahork-Falcarragh, Fintown, Greencastle, Portnoo Nairn and Rathmullan.
The EPA had said it issued directions to Irish Water because of persistent trihalomethane failures in the six supplies.
“Irish Water pleaded guilty to two summonses, relating to Fintown and Greencastle, with the evidence in relation to all six supplies being outlined to the Court to be taken into consideration. Irish Water was convicted in relation to the summonses for Fintown and Greencastle and total fines of €6,000 were imposed. Agency costs were also awarded,” the report said.
The report also shows five Donegal water sources require action to deal with inadequate cryptosporidium treatment.
The EPA said 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.
Five Donegal water supplies on the EPA Remedial Action List require action to deal with Cryptosporidium.
The Creeslough, Glenties-Ardara, Greencastle, Letterkenny and Letterkenny-Milford water supplies are all on the action list.
The Creeslough and Glenties-Ardara supplies have had upgrades of their treatment plants completed but they are awaiting verification of the effectiveness of the action plan.
An action plan for Greencastle calls for abandon source and replace with supply from the East Inishowen water supply.
The Letterkenny and Milford-Letterkenny water supplies both require an upgrade of the water treatment plant to include barrier for cryptosporidium removal.
During 2018, Irish Water notified the EPA of eight supplies in Donegal that failed the standard for trihalomethanes at one or more times during the year.
Trihalomethanes (THMs) form when natural organic matter in the water source, such as rotting vegetation, reacts with chlorine used in the disinfection treatment process.
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.”