Drinking water concerns not affecting group schemes

Further to Dónal Hickey’s article re threats to drinking water (Nov 12), I wish to point out that the National Federation of Group Water Schemes met the HSE and the EPA in October to discuss growing concerns about the dangerous VTEC strain of E.coli in water supplies.

Notwithstanding our lead article from Rural Water News, we were somewhat perplexed at the reports of a significant rise in contamination in group water schemes (in addition to private supplies), as we were hearing little if anything about this from the 376 privately-sourced schemes that come under the Drinking Water Regulations.

Following discussion, it emerged that the problem is actually on those communal drinking water supplies that serve many new housing developments the length and breadth of Ireland. These are not group water schemes in the accepted sense of the term (ie community-owned and community-run drinking water supplies).

This is a major problem, as responsibility for the safety of the water supply might actually lie with the original developer who has gone out of business! In fact, only two confirmed cases of VTEC contamination were reported on properly constituted group water schemes, both in County Offaly. The underlying causes of these incidents have now been addressed.

Of course, any E.coli exceedance is unacceptable and the NFGWS and local schemes are determined to provide drinking water supplies to their members that are at least as safe as those provided by the local authorities.

Indeed, the vast majority of schemes are already meeting this objective and the EPA’s Drinking Water Report for 2010 acknowledged the huge progress achieved in recent years. We expect that further progress will be announced in the report for 2011.

Our federation warmly welcomes the focus that your newspaper has given to this issue, as it is a major public health concern, especially when you consider that Ireland has by far the worst record for VTEC contamination in Europe.

As your article suggests, people should ensure effective disinfection of their drinking water supplies and take particular care where their supply source may be close to a septic tank, or is in an area where slurry spreading occurs.

Brian MacDonald
Editor Rural Water News
Monaghan

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