A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency has raised concerns over the poor quality of drinking water in private supplies in Ireland.
Almost 20% of Ireland’s population is supplied by private water supplies, including household wells and springs.
The EPA analysis of private water supplies in 2017 released today found that small schemes have the poorest water quality of all private water supply types.
There are 30 registered small private supplies in Donegal serving 1,552 people. These supplies are commonly used where there is no access to a public supply or where a business has chosen to use a private supply for commercial or other purposes.
However, concerns have been raised over the insufficient monitoring of private supplies, many of which are not on the local authorities’ register.
Donegal had 23 boil notices placed on private supplies in 2017. This affected 1607 of the population.
Boil notices are issued when people on a supply are advised to boil their water to make it safe to drink.
The EPA report highlights that more than fifty private supplies in Ireland were found to be contaminated with human or animal waste at least once during 2017.
Nationally, there were 51 cases of E. coli found in small private water supplies serving commercial buildings (hotels, B&Bs, pubs etc.) or public buildings (schools, crèches, campsites etc.).
The report shows that though there was an increase in the number of private supplies monitored in 2017, monitoring remains inadequate. E. coli testing results were not reported to local authorities for 711 small private water supplies. There are four small private supplies in Donegal which are not monitored for E. coli.
Consuming water with E. coli in it generally leads to gastrointestinal illness, but in a small number of cases can result in severe and long-term kidney failure.
Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said: “We are concerned about the continuing poor quality of drinking water in private supplies serving commercial or public activities such as crèches, nursing homes and hotels.
“Our report found that many of these supplies are not being monitored for water quality. The consumption of water of unknown quality poses a serious health risk to consumers, particularly vulnerable people such as the young and elderly.”
Darragh Page, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said: “We know that there are a number of private supplies not on the local authority register.
“We would encourage all private water suppliers and local authorities to ensure that all private water supplies are on the register and are tested regularly.
“It is essential that all water supplies are tested to confirm that consumer’s health is not being put at risk. Where water supplies are contaminated, water suppliers should take action to protect consumers.”