Watchdog pursue Irish Water and councils over supply issues

Irish Water, along with county councils in Kerry and Donegal, have been served with legal proceedings by the Environmental Protection Agency over substandard water supplies.

An examination of Letterkenny’s regional public water supply by the EPA led to concerns over the treatment of water for cryptosporidium as well as excessive levels of trihalomethanes.

In Tralee, meanwhile, a housing estate in Kerry’s county town, shows 4.5 times the permitted level of lead contamination in supply pipes.

Both county councils had been facing legal proceedings from the EPA before Irish Water’s takeover of water supplies.

In Letterkenny, where there are 19,000 residents, the EPA complaint — due to be heard in the local district court on Tuesday next — alleges that Donegal County Council failed to comply with a direction issued by the EPA under EU drinking water regulations and failed to implement an action programme approved by the EPA in August 2011 for the improvement of the quality of water intended for human consumption.

With Irish Water now holding the remit for the water supply, it has been added to the court proceedings as a defendant.

In Tralee, meanwhile, residents of St Brendan’s Park have appealed to Irish Water to withdraw charges until old lead pipes are replaced.

The EPA has already issued legal proceedings against Irish Water and the county council in relation to a replacement of the water mains.

However, Kerry County Council, as an agent for Irish Water, plans to have new piping in place by mid-to-late 2015.

Residents’ association chairman Richard O’Halloran yesterday said families wanted the water declared unfit for human consumption, but had no replies to their requests from the HSE or Irish Water.

“We’re up in a heap at the moment,” said Mr O’Halloran. “No one has contacted us. We’re getting no information. We’re still in limbo. Why should we be asked to pay for a service that’s not fit for purpose. We want clarification from Irish Water.

“We’re spending a lot of money buying bottled water as people don’t want to drink the water due to concerns about lead.”

Mr O’Halloran said residents would be holding a meeting to decide what action to take and did not rule out a refusal to pay charges until the situation had been remedied.

Irish Water cead of communications Elizabeth Arnett said it was the role of the HSE to declare water unsafe and only when water was deemed unfit for human consumption would there be no charge.

She said the residents would not have to pay if the HSE put a drinking water restriction in place, similar to the situation in the event of a boiled water notice from a local authority.

“Lead pipes do not necessarily mean lead in the water,” Ms Arnett told Radio Kerry.

“Lead is only an issue if there are very high levels of exposure over a long period of time.”

Tralee Sinn Féin councillor Pa Daly, meanwhile, called for an exemption for local residents.

“There’s a lot of anger in the estate over being forced to pay for water containing dangerous levels of lead,” said Mr Daly.

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