Irish Water to carry out audits after ‘failures’ at drinking water plant serving parts of Dublin

0 ballymore eustace waste water treatment plantjfif.jpg
0 ballymore eustace waste water treatment plantjfif.jpg

Audits are set to be carried out at water treatment plants around the country after unsafe water entered the public drinking water supply for the Greater Dublin area last month following an issue at the Ballymore Eustace waste water treatment plant.

The failures were described as two “serious incidents” which occurred in recent weeks in drinking water plants serving parts of the two counties.

The plants concerned were at Ballymore Eustace which serves parts of Co Dublin, and a plant in Wexford which serves Gorey town.

Minister for Housing Mr O’Brien was informed of the incidents by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which said in the case of the plant serving Gorey, the failures had caused illnesses in the local population.

The illnesses had been first detected by the Health Service Executive.

The Minister said he had been informed by the EPA of “an abject failure in management oversight, operational control and responsiveness” at the two public drinking water treatment plants, which had allowed unsafe water to enter into the public drinking water supply and endanger public health.

Irish Water has now confirmed that plants across the country will be audited following serious incidents at two separate plants which led to at least 52 confirmed illnesses.

Many people in the Greater Dublin area reported suffering from gastroenteritis and other stomach issues last month which they believe is connected to the water issues.

Speaking to Dublin Live, one family in Ballyfermot said they were all ‘very ill with gastroenteritis’ for several weeks.

“My mother is in her 80s and she had an upset stomach for over two weeks, it was gastroenteritis and the doctor said that it was most likely from the tap water. We were both very sick for weeks, it was awful,” said Tom Lynch.

“Irish Water really needs to give people more warning when there are issues with the water, otherwise vulnerable people like my mam can become very sick,” he added.

The audits were ordered by Local Government Minister Darragh O’Brien on Saturday after issues arose at water treatment plants in Ballymore Eustace, which supplies drinking water to parts of Dublin city, and in Creagh, which serves Gorey in Co Wexford, were made public on Friday.

Minister O’Brien met with representatives from Irish Water, Dublin City Council, and Wexford County Council to discuss the matter on Saturday.

In a statement following the meeting, the Minister said: “In the immediate term Irish Water will now undertake an audit of the water treatment plants across the country.”

“The utility company will prioritise audits of the largest 20 treatment plants. This will include visiting the sites and meetings with staff, to ensure “proper processes are in place in terms of dealing with and escalating any incidents which may arise,” said Mr O’Brien.

The Ballymore Eustace plant, which serves 877,000 customers in the greater Dublin area, produced unsafe drinking water for a period of up to 10 hours on 20th-21st August, due to the loss of a cryptosporidium treatment barrier compounded by inadequate disinfection, the EPA said.

The incident was not notified by Irish Water to the EPA or to the Health Service Executive (HSE) until 1st September, “preventing a timely risk assessment of the impact on drinking water quality and to allow interventions to be taken that could have protected public health”.

The incidents have now been rectified and the water supply from the two plants is now safe to drink, the Minister said.

In a statement issued to Dublin Live, Irish Water confirmed that it is working closely with Dublin City Council and Wexford County Council following the drinking water incidents.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water told Dublin Live: “Both incidents were reported to the EPA and consulted with the HSE as soon as Irish Water became aware of the issues.

“Irish Water agrees that the issues identified by the EPA require urgent action. In particular the process around notifiable incidents to protect public health.”

Niall Gleeson, Managing Director, Irish Water, said: “Irish Water agrees with the Minister and the EPA that both incidents are unacceptable. In both instances, late notification of issues relating to the disinfection process at the plants potentially put public health at risk.

“In discussions on Saturday with the Chief Executives of Wexford and Dublin City Council we reconfirmed that all measures would be taken to ensure there would be no re-occurrence of drinking water issues and can confirm to all customers the water is safe to drink. Irish Water has engaged again with all Local Authorities on the need to report incidents to allow for timely risk assessments to protect public health.

“This incident underlines the importance of creating a Single Public Utility where service delivery is controlled and managed by one organisation. Irish Water is engaging via the Workplace Relations Commission with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Local Authorities and Trade Unions as part of talks to create a Single Public Utility (SPU).

“Irish Water also continues to consult with HSE on the outbreak of illnesses in Gorey and with Wexford County Council on a programme of works at the water treatment plant. We would like to apologise to customers for the delay in communicating the incident and the water treatment plant failing to meet the appropriate level of disinfection.

“We are continuing our work with Local Authorities across the country to prioritise the supply of safe, secure drinking water supplies to all our customers. Irish Water will work with each Local Authority over the coming two weeks, conducting re-fresher training on incident reporting for all plants.

“Where appropriate, Irish Water will now put in place a technician on site, to ensure the continued safety of water treatment plants,” he added.

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