Poor water filtration systems in Galway are putting almost 30,000 people in danger of drinking contaminated water on a daily basis.
There are already boil water notices in place which affect more than 11,000 people in Loughrea, Carraroe, Williamstown, Kilconnell, and Leenane.
In Loughrea, Irish Water is installing a new UV system, and Carraroe is receiving an upgraded filtration and disinfection system, with Williamstown, Kilconnell, and Leenane all affected by an extensive flushing of the mains, and a reservoir cleaning process.
Each location, with the addition of Kilkerrin and Moylough, will also receive upgraded cryptosporidium barriers, as the barrier was totally absent in some locations.
“The most important thing here is the establishment of a clean water provision in Galway as quickly as possible,” said Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources, Sean Kyne.
In early 2015, he welcomed a €400,000 investment for the water treatment plant in Carroroe, and expected a completion date of February 2016. This date was then moved to September, and Kyne pointed towards “unavoidable and not expected delays” which have slowed the progression of these plans.
However, the Minister remains confident water quality in Galway will improve with the right investment. This year, Irish Water plans to invest €532 million on water and waste-water management services, and Galway is expected to benefit from the fund.
In July 2015, Leenane was issued a boil water notice as a “precautionary measure” by Irish Water and Galway County Council, but 14 months later, little has changed, and a host of other densely populated towns have been made honorary members of the boil water crew.
The Environmental Protection Agency released its quarterly remedial actions list which placed Galway as a high priority, with inadequate treatment of cryptosporidium, no cryptosporidium barriers, and trihalomethanes failures all reported in the county.
Annoying and costly
Galway County councillor Ivan Canning believes that Irish Water plans to lift the ban in the coming weeks, but understands the frustrations of Loughrea locals.
“It is annoying for people, and it is costly too,” he said in relation to locals buying water containers so they have water to drink. “People are worrying about the waste with all these plastic bottles, and they think they shouldn’t have to pay for them to be removed.
“There is a lot to be said about the pros and cons of the system, but let’s hope it gets solved sooner rather than later.”
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite, long associated with Galway, that lives in the bowels of humans and animals. Ingestion of the parasite results in cryptosporidiosis which can cause severe intestinal problems if not treated. In the United States, it is the leading waterborne disease.
Trihalomethanes, or THMs, are chemicals formed by the reaction of dissolved organic material and chlorine, which is used for disinfection, in order to protect against pathogenic bacteria. However, elevated levels of THMs do not represent an “immediate risk to public health”, according to an Irish Water spokesperson.
But both are plentiful in Galway’s water supply system and in need of urgent attention.
Irish Water is looking to address the situation, but requires an investment of more than €2 billion in drinking water production and distribution, which will fix anomalies in the system by 2021.
“Irish Water take the provision of high quality, safe and secure water for the people of Galway very seriously,” said Sean Laffey, a director at Irish Water.
“The most often cited challenge on the remedial actions list is the level of THMs in the drinking water. Irish Water has put in place the first national THM plan and a prioritised programme of investment to address all inadequacies in drinking water parameters.”