Water infrastructure failures put 885,000 at risk, watchdog says

Water infrastructure failures put 885,000 at risk, watchdog says

At the Ballymore Eustace water treatment plant in Co Kildare a coagulant dosing pump failure affected filtration and the effectiveness of disinfection and the plant’s cryptosporidium barrier was compromised, the EPA said. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Two significant water infrastructure failures put almost 900,000 at risk last year, including hospitalisations and sickness in local communities, the environmental watchdog has said. 

In its water quality report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criticised Irish Water's progress in upgrading and managing vulnerable infrastructure around the country.

The EPA said there were two significant incidents during 2021 at the Gorey and Ballymore Eustace water treatment plants in Wexford and Kildare respectively that put the health of approximately 885,000 people at risk.

The Gorey situation included illness in the community, and even hospitalisations, the agency said.

"In the case of the Gorey plant, there was a power failure leading to a chlorine pump failure. This compromised the disinfection system at the water treatment plant. Combined with a deterioration of the raw water quality, this compromised the water quality provided to the public," the report said.

There were over 50 confirmed cases of illness, including VTEC, which is a very dangerous form of E. coli, and several people were hospitalised, it added.

In relation to Ballymore Eustace, there was a coagulant dosing pump failure which affected filtration. The effectiveness of disinfection and the plant’s cryptosporidium barrier was therefore compromised, the EPA said.

Irish Water’s failure to notify both EPA and HSE meant there was not an opportunity to put in place boil-water notices to protect public health, the EPA report said. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Irish Water’s failure to notify both EPA and HSE meant there was not an opportunity to put in place boil-water notices to protect public health, the EPA report said. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Irish Water’s failure to notify both EPA and HSE meant there was not an opportunity to put in place boil-water notices to protect public health, the report added.

These highlighted significant failings in oversight and management by Irish Water and local authorities and Irish Water was ordered to implement a number of actions at all supplies, to prevent the reoccurrence of similar issues, according to the EPA.

Because of the actions taken, more drinking-water quality issues were detected and reported, with the number of boil-water notices increasing significantly in the last quarter of 2021. 

The total number of people affected by boil-water notices in 2021 was around 211,000, the EPA said.

Last year's 211,000 compared to less than 75,000 during 2020, while almost half of the 2021 notices were in place for more than 30 days. 

One boil-water notice in Longford in late 2021 affected 17,500 people for over a month, the report said.

"The serious incidents at Gorey and Ballymore Eustace water treatment plants last year, which resulted in unsafe water being released for consumption, have highlighted Irish Water’s fundamental obligation to ensure our public water supplies are properly operated, and managed, to protect public health," said EPA director Dr Tom Ryan.

Increased vigilance is needed by Irish Water and local authorities in their oversight and management of plant operations to ensure incidents are dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner.

High incidences of boil-water notices will remain until Irish Water improves the resilience of drinking water plants, Mr Ryan added.

"Boil water notices are affecting an increasing number of consumers and while we recognise the challenges these present to individuals and communities, they are necessary to protect public health," he said.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Text header

From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

Let Me Tell You

Let Me Tell You is a new bespoke podcast series from 

Logo IE

Hosts Daniel McConnell and Paul Hosford take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments in recent Irish political history from the unique perspective of one of the key players involved.

Bespoke political podcast series from

Logo IE
War_map
Execution Time: 0.243 s