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EPA issues Drinking Water Report – Lead Piping Still an Issue


The EPA has issued its 2011 Drinking Water report. The main conclusions/recommendations are:

Public Drinking Water Supply under the direct control of Water Services Authorities

  • 200 (59%) of the original 339 public water supplies placed on the EPA Remedial Action List (RAL) have completed the necessary action programmes and have been either replaced, upgraded or have improved operations. Three WSAs (Local Authorities) did not provide an estimation of the timeframe for the completion of remedial actions for 12 supplies, 10 of which were in Donegal.  
  • There are now 191 supplies on the EPA Remedial Action List, a significant number by any standards. 
  • There are 60 supplies identified as high risk where appropriate barriers to Cryptosporidium need to be installed.
  • E. coli was detected in 12 (1.3%) public water supplies during compliance monitoring in 2011 as compared to 20 (2.2%) supplies in 2010.
  • At the end of 2011, all public water supplies had a chlorine monitor and alarm in place.
  • Nitrate exceedances were reported in five public water supplies in 2011.
  • 26 new boil water notices and five new water restrictions (serving approximately 40,000 persons) were put in place by 15 WSAs in 2011.


Public Group Water Schemes, Private Group Water Schemes and Small Private Supplies

  • The level of non-compliance with the trihalomethanes limit in public group water schemes improved from 25.3% in 2010 to 12.4% in 2011. The incidence of failure to meet the trihalomethanes limit was higher than the parent public water supplies (10.9%) from which the water is taken, indicating that management of the networks needs to be improved. Trihalomethanes form when chlorine used for disinfection reacts with organic contaminants present.
  • 46 schemes (10.2%) were found to be contaminated with E. coli at least once during 2011, down from 56 (11.6%) in 2010. The quality of drinking water in private group water schemes remains inferior to that in public water supplies.


One of the most significant issues yet to be adequately addressed is the contamination of drinking water by lead piping. There are generally 3 main types of water distribution piping;

  • Water Main pipe which is the main distribution pipeline and is normally underneath a roadway or footpath;
  • Communication Pipes linking the Water Main with the Water Meter. The communication pipeline is generally under the control of the WSA;
  • Supply Pipe linking the Water Meter with the household. The Supply Pipe is generally under the control of the householder.


Currently there are 5 areas identified with significant amounts of Mains lead piping yet to be removed. These are Mallow, Lough Guitane, Longford, Ennis & Granard.

While the EPA has issued guidance regarding what councils should do in relation to lead piping, there does not seem to be a formal structure in place for the auditing of, and reporting on, Mains lead piping.

In relation to Communication pipelines the situation as reported in the Drinking Water Report appears to be that the WSA will only be asked to replace lead Communication pipelines where the householder agrees to replace Supply piping under their control. Surely the WSA should be replacing all lead piping under their control? While the EPA has issued Directions to WSAs in relation to Mains lead piping it does not appear to have done so for Communication piping.

The situation regarding local authority housing stock appears to be even more alarming as the WSA is responsible for addressing all lead piping issues, including Supply pipes. It appears that there is no clear policy in relation to the issue of lead piping in local authority housing stock and that such piping will only be replaced where an exceedance of the lead standard has been found.

Lead compliance levels reduce to 10 µg/l in December 2013. Do we really need to wait for exceedances for coordinated action to be taken?