High Lead levels in Drinking Water Forces Irish Water to Provide Public Tap to Tralee Residents

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Global Water News, Water Contamination
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Water tap image. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Article courtesy of Thejournal.ie | November 7, 2014 | The Journal.ie | Shared as educational material

CONCERNS RAISED in relation to high lead levels in the drinking water at a housing estate in Tralee has forced Irish Water to facilitate an alternative drinking water supply for residents.

Kerry County Council said Irish Water have now “acceded to the request of the members of the Tralee Municipal District” and it is arranging for the provision of a public water tap for residents.

TheJournal.ie contacted Irish Water in relation to the lead levels in the drinking water this week.

It said in a statement that Irish Water and Kerry County Council recently took samples of the drinking water within St Brendan’s Park and confirmed that some tests detected lead levels above EU regulations.

On 25 December 2013, the maximum allowable concentration for lead in drinking water was reduced. The new 2014 Drinking Water Regulations were published earlier this year and the new maximum allowable concentration for lead in drinking water has been reduced from 25 µg/l (micrograms per litre) to 10 µg/l.
Where lead levels were found to exceed the maximum allowable concentration in St Brendan’s Park, this was most likely due to a combination of common lead services, lead service connections and internal lead plumbing in individual houses.

When contacted earlier this week by TheJournal.ie, Kerry County Council said in a statement:

Kerry County Council has NOT received any recommendation or advice from the HSE in relation to putting in place a drinking water ban for St Brendan’s Park.

Irish Water said it is working with the HSE in relation to the lead test results which have been taken in St. Brendan’s Park to date and is due to update residents in the coming days.

Independent Sentator Gerard Caughwell said the high lead levels is an “affront to health and safety policy and to the health of the people in the area”.

Ban on drinking water 

He said there is no excuse for not issuing an immediate ban on drinking water when the issue was first discovered.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said in a statement:

HSE Environmental Health Services do provide advice to Irish Water about water quality…

However, it said that Irish Water manage the water system “in its entirety including any and all communication on the subject” and stated that any further communication relating to the restriction on drinking water should be directed at Irish Water.

EPA 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also taking a court action against Kerry County Council and Irish Water in relation to St Brendan’s Park.

The EPA claims that on 28 September 2011, Kerry County Council was directed by the EPA to replace all lead mains in Tralee identified to the EPA in an Action Programme no later than 25 December 2013.

A summons was issued on 20 June 2014 to Kerry County Council and Irish Water alleging that both authorities had failed to complete the replacement of the lead distribution main in St Brendan,s Park, identified in the Action Programme submitted in response to the direction.

The text of the summons is as follows:

Failure to comply with a Direction issued by the Agency under Regulation 16(1) of the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations 2007 in that they failed to complete the replacement lead distribution mains at St. Brendan’s Park, Tralee, identified in the Action Programme Report submitted in response to the said Direction.

However, Irish Water told TheJournal.ie that it is now taking action to reduce the risk of lead in the drinking water in the housing estate.

Lead piping 

Irish Water told TheJournal.ie that it is investing in “public side lead pipe replacement schemes, primarily communications pipes, (that section of the service pipe between the watermain and the stop valve/water meter) with a view to eliminating lead mains (including backyard shared services)”.

“We are also reviewing our treatment process options to ensure that we can mitigate the risk in the short term. Irish Water is targeting lead replacement initially in areas thought to be at greatest risk based on results of sampling data.”

Irish Water says it has begun works at St Brendan’s Park to replace the old cast iron watermains, common lead services and lead service connections, stating that the work should be complete by May 2015. It stated that the replacement of internal lead plumbing is the responsibility of the property owner.

Letter to residents 

Prior to Irish Water conceding to the serious concerns of both residents and the municipal council, Irish Water issued letters to residents of St Brendan’s Park, advising residents to run the water from the cold tap in the kitchen sink to lower the level of lead. They should then test their lead water levels to ensure they are below the EU’s 10 µg/l, they were told.

Here is the letter: (Can’t see the letter – click here>>)

Letter from IW to residents Brendans Park(high lead levels)

Photo credit: Thejournal.ie

After issuing this letter, Irish Water then agreed to provide drinking water to residents of the housing estate. Since yesterday, residents have been able to draw water from a public tap at the local town council depot.

Senator Craughwell said he has serious concerns about the advice that Irish Water issued to residents this week, stating that the HSE’s own regulations on reducing lead levels in water states that running the tap does not always work and it can pose serious health risks to young infants and pregnant women.

HSE Advise on Lead (ref John Fitz) high lead levels

Photo credit: John Fitz

(Can’t see the document? Click here>>>)

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