The Emerald Isles' pure clear waters are swimming in carcinogenic Trihalomethanes

In relation to this week's revelation in several national newspapers that Trihalomethane is present in water supplies throughout Ireland,  Yeat's poem 'The Song of Wandering Aengus' springs to mind.  Instead of the trout turning into ' a glimmering girl with apple blossom in her hair', the trout turns into a lethal carcinogen.

View of Greencastle and Lough Foyle with Magiligan Head in background

View of Greencastle and Lough Foyle with Magiligan Head in background

This is not meant to be flippant but how else can one view this recent health bombshell?  It is even more sinister since the facts have been known for several years, (at least since 2010),  by our illustrious administration.   Not one local representative, not one official has thought it worthwhile to investigate or inform their community.  

Donegal Affected Areas
You can download full EPA Drinking Water Remedial Action List Q4 of 2015.  In this you will see Donegal areas highlighted for THM failure (Trihalomethanes), areas include Gashard, Fintown, Greencastle, Pettigo, Portnoo, Rathmullen.  Also mentioned for Donegal are areas lacking in Cryptosporidium barriers; Glenties, Kilcar, Cresslough and Letterkenny.

This is awful news, however,  the worst part is that it is not new.  It was highlighted in a local Donegal online newspaper, onNov 20,2014.

Not only that but it was published in 2010 in EPA report,   This indicates that it was known to the EPA, and HSA as far back as 2010.

Also highlighted in the report were problems with other chemicals including lead, and microorganisms i.e cryptosporidium.  

Where has the outcry been from our political representatives, local and national? Where has the outcry been from all our health officials and county administrators?  It is now 2016 and still the communities are unaware of the potential hazards. 

EPA Minimising Risks
There is a couple of other interesting things in the above EPA report that need highlighting.   One does not need to be a scientist to see subtle misrepresentations such as in explaining Trihalomethanes, para 2.4.3, the report says

“THM failures are caused by the absence of adequate treatment to remove organic matter (THM precursors). Trihalomethanes are formed when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in raw water”

However, in it states

” Trihalomethanes are a group of organic chemicals that ofter occur in drinking water as a result of chlorine treatment for disinfectant purposes and therefore are also known as 'disinfection byproducts' or DBPs”.

Do you see the subtle difference?

The EPA report, para 2.4.3 again is downplaying the significance of the carcinogenic properties of trihalomethanes

“Trihalmomethanes are formed when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in raw water. Chloroform and bromodichloromethane (two of the four THMs) are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a ‘possible carcinogen’. The Committee on the Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, consumer Products and the Environment (COT) (UK) systematically reviewed the evidence with regard to THMs and cancer in 2008 and stated “Problems remain in the interpretation of published studies. These include the small relative risks recorded, the possibility of residual confounding, and the problems with exposure assessment” They concluded “the evidence for a causal association between cancer and exposure to chlorination by-products is limited and any such association is unlikely to be strong”

Do you see what I am trying to get at? Even today the EPA is picking and choosing reports and scientific facts in an effort to what can only be construed as risk minimisation. Why?

Authorities Not Obliged to Inform Public
You would be hard pressed to find any information in the report obliging authorities to inform the public about potential dangers to their health.  Apart from mention of ‘boil notices’ there isn’t anything statingthat the public have a right to know, especially in the case of Trihalomethanes.

The 2011 EPA report, para 3, states ” 200 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 did not provide an estimation of the timeframe for completion of remedial actions for 12 supplies, 10 of which were in Donegal.”

Same paragraph “ All WSAs were found to be publishing some or all of the microbiological, chemical and indicator monitoring data as required by the Ministerial Direction on the publication of drinking water results. However, many WSAs are not publishing this information within one month as required. Six WSAs (Galway, city and county, Kilkenny, Limerick, Meath, North Tipperary) were found to be in full compliance”

This would imply all others not mentioned were not in compliance. When EPA says ‘publicising result’, what do they mean?  Are these results, or it seems ‘ partial results’ so obscure that even our elected representatives are not aware of them? 

Surely the public has a right to know, to be informed what they are consuming, the potential lethal consequences of consuming carcinogenic drinking water?  Should we not have a right to expect that everything is being done to protect our health?   Should it not be mandatory for all personnel and official bodies, scientist and engineers,  employed to monitor and research , to make it known to the public without trying to minimise the hazards?  Surely they know and have known since 2011 and beyond.  Still people in 2016, in Greencastle and elsewhere in Donegal and nationally are drinking contaminated water.

What this 2011 report shows, together with the more recent EPA 2015 report, is that all is not as transparent as they would like us to believe and it seems that the welfare of citizens is not regarded as first priority .

Related Articles

Irish Times, Feb 17, 2016
Irish Examiner, Feb 17, 2016
The, Feb 17, 2016

Enda Craig

Enda Craig

An Inishowen environmentalist has hit out at Irish Water for what he termed a lack of information about excessive chemicals and contaminants in some water supplies.

Highland Radio, Feb17, 2016

Enda Craig of the Campaign for a Clean Community was speaking this week after it emerged that one of the exceedents in the Greencastle supply is a chemical which has been linked with some cancers.

Mr Craig says Irish Water are promising a new supply by 2017, but he believes this could be rectified immediately by switching Greencastle to the East Inishowen supply.

He says this is an issue which needs to be prioritised: