Private supply water quality ‘not good enough and putting health at risk’

The quality of drinking water in private water supplies is not good enough and is putting health at risk, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA released the Drinking Water Quality in Private Supplies 2019 report today (Thursday, February 11).

One million people in Ireland get their drinking water from a private supply and many more drink water from small private supplies like hotels, pubs and restaurants, crèches, nursing homes and national schools in their daily lives.

According to the report, 88 (6.2%) of the 1,418 small private supplies monitored failed to meet the standards relating to bacteria, which is the most important indicator of safe drinking water.

Similarly, 20 (4.8%) of the 417 private group schemes monitored during the year, serving approximately 3,000 people, failed to meet the standards.

This failure, in more than 100 private water supplies, “is of significant concern and puts the thousands of users of these supplies at risk”, the authority says. The EPA also found failures to meet the standards for other parameters – for example, nitrates and trihalomethanes – that need to be addressed.

Eight private group water schemes and 20 small private supplies which were monitored for nitrates failed to meet the standard, while eight private group schemes and four small private supplies failed to meet the trihalomethanes standard.

Critically, 19% of registered small private supplies, serving food businesses, nursing homes, creches and B&Bs, were not monitored in 2019.

Warning that this makes it impossible to be confident that the water is safe to drink, the authority stressed that local authorities must ensure that monitoring is undertaken in line with the regulations.

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

“Consumers should be confident that their water is safe to drink. Water suppliers are obliged to make sure their water supply is clean and wholesome and is in compliance with the water quality standards.

It is critical that monitoring is undertaken and, if issues are identified, action must be taken to protect human health.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage developed a Remedial Action List for Group Water Schemes in 2016.

This is a list of 106 group water schemes, mainly in rural areas, that require upgrades to improve drinking water quality.

The report shows that progress is being made and the department has stated that it expects that all of these supplies will be addressed by the end of 2021.