Formal complaint over high level of chemical contamination in Irish water

This follows a complaint, lodged nine years ago by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), about the excess of harmful trihalomethanes (THMs) found in numerous drinking water supplies.

The European Commission has upgraded a formal complaint over the high level of chemical contamination in Irish drinking water.This follows a complaint, lodged nine years ago by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), about the excess of harmful trihalomethanes (THMs) found in numerous drinking water supplies.

According to the environmental group,  THMs are formed when organic matter, such as suspended peat sediment, are treated with chlorine at water treatment plants.  They are harmful to human health and include known carcinogens like chloroform.  They are usually ingested by drinking, but can be inhaled in the bath or shower, or when washing clothes and dishes.

In its original submission to the Commission, FIE showed that 24 counties had supplies breaching EU and WHO THM limits, with 14 counties having supplies double the THM limit. One water supply, Ring, in County Waterford, recorded THM levels nine times the WHO/EU limit.

Cork, Kerry, Donegal and Wicklow recorded the greatest exceedances. "While much work has been done to upgrade water treatment plants in general, according to the March 2020 Remedial Actions list, 24 supplies serving 185,189 customers are still receiving water above the EU and WHO limits for THMs."

According to FIE, consumers can use simple charcoal filters to ensure they are removed. "They will not do this, however, unless they are made aware of the danger on each individual bill, which Irish Water has failed to do."

While the Commission found that some progress has been made, Ireland has not been complying with the rules since December 2003. "

"High THM levels have been linked to liver, kidneys and central nervous system diseases, bladder and colon cancer risks, as well as to effects on foetal growth, foetal viability and risks of foetal malformations."

"Therefore, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to Ireland, which now has four months to remedy the situation. Should Ireland fail to take appropriate action, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union."

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