30 September 2008

Bad Tap Water - It's not just Galway

Last week we heard a lot about the problems with contaminated water supplies in Galway City, and especially about the high lead content in the communal tap water. (see my entries of September 23rd, 24th and 27th)

It now emerges that Galway is not the only place in Ireland with such problems of water quality.

Eleven local authorities from all over the country have now officially contacted the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because they have also detected lead levels above the acceptable limit in a total of 23 public water supply systems across the country.

According to the EPA, so far four public health notices have been issued. The affected areas are: Old Mervue in Galway City, Mallow in Co. Cork, Ballintra in Co. Donegal and Bruff in Co. Limerick.

The other local authorities that have contacted the agency revealing higher than acceptable levels of lead in their water supplies are Co. Carlow, Co. Kerry, Co. Leitrim, Co. Longford, Co. Tipperary (North Riding) and Co. Wicklow.

Somehow I have the strange feeling that this represents only the tip of the proverbial iceberg...

The EPA says it is to liaise with the Health Service Executive (HSE) over the coming days to establish the true extent of the problem.
It advises as "best practice" for local authorities that detect levels of lead higher than the safe standard that follow-up tests should be carried out to establish the true extent of the problem.

That's not more than common sense, and it is somehow alarming that the EPA has to point it out to the local authorities.

It is not yet known if secondary tests have been conducted in the 23 identified water supply areas, but the EPA hopes that a more detailed picture will emerge over the coming days.

Meanwhile Cork County Council says that work on replacing a lead-lined water pipe in Mallow should begin before the end of this week.
It comes after it emerged that some residents have been told not to drink their water after more than three times the safe amount of lead was detected in supplies in the town.

The local authority is in the process of arranging for 450 metres of pipeline, and connections to some 60 premises, to be replaced.
Last Friday residents in the Beecher Street area of Mallow were notified that - following routine testing - "elevated levels of lead" were found in the drinking water in one house in the street. Follow-up tests by the HSE identified two other premises.
As a precaution, Cork County Council has advised all people in Beecher Street not to drink, boil or use the water supply in food preparation until further notice. The water is apparently safe for bathing, washing dishes and clothes.
Two temporary safe drinking water supply taps have been put in place at the northern end of the street for residents' use.

One wonders how long the various County Councils have known about the lead contamination in their area, but said nothing. Only after the recent scandal in Galway City made national headlines, they came out of their cosy cocoons and made their problems known to the EPA.

I think there are way too many incompetent and complacent people in responsible positions in local government, and the up-coming local elections next year should be used to make serious changes.

The Emerald Islander

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