The Environmental Protection Agency has brought a case against Mayo County Council in relation to drinking water standards in the Lough Mask water supply scheme. Mayo County Council admitted breaching the European Communities (Drinking Water ) Regulations. These regulations establish strict quality standards for water used for human consumption.
At Castlebar District Court this week solicitor for the EPA said that the council admits the exceedance of limits for trihalomethanes (THMs ) found in drinking water in the Lough Mask water supply. This scheme supplies water to Castlebar, Ballyhaunis, Ballinrobe, Knock, and other surrounding areas. Since 2009 the limit for THMs in drinking water is 100 ug/l, however there has been an exceedance of this in the water supply since these new limits came into effect.
The EPA solicitor said the council admits that the treatment plant is inadequate, as at present 40 per cent of the water bypasses the required treatment. However the EPA accepts that the council will carry out works to upgrade the treatment plant.
The court heard there is no evidence that the drinking water has been damaging to individuals, as there have been no complaints in relation to health. When asked by Judge Mary Devins what health effects THMs in water can cause, the judge was told that it can be carcinogenic.
Director of services with Mayo County Council, Paddy Mahon, said that since the limits were reduced from 150ug/l to 100ug/l that has been an exceedance in certain parts of the water. Mr Mahon said that the council has been in constant contact with the EPA in relation to the matter and that funding has been received from the Department of Environment to carry out improvement works. Contractors have been shortlisted and it is hoped to have a contractor appointed by March, with works to commence by the summer. It could take 12 to 18 months for the improvement works to be completed.
Solicitor Ward McEllin, representing the council, said that Mayo County Council has been proactive on all matters and furnishes a water monitoring report to the EPA every four months.
Judge Mary Devins convicted and fined the council €750. Costs have already been agreed between the council and EPA.