Republic faces infringement proceedings due to the presence of chemicals in its supply
The European Commission will take infringement proceedings against Ireland due to dangerous levels of chemicals found in drinking water.
The commission wrote to the Department of Housing this month confirming that a pilot case it had initiated into the level of trihalomethanes (THMs) in the water system has been closed.
In the correspondence, it confirmed that further “treatment” would now be necessary to deal with the chemicals, which have been linked to cancer.
A spokesman said the commission would now move to take “more formal steps” in response to ongoing concerns.
Sources confirmed that infringement proceedings would begin within a matter of weeks.
Ireland will be given the opportunity to respond to the action. If its response is inadequate, the commission can take the case to the European Court of Justice, whose judgment is binding.
Significant daily penalties could be imposed by the court if Ireland does not act appropriately.
THMs are chemicals that have been present in many public water supplies for years. They are formed when chlorine is added to purify water.
Long-term exposure is reported to carry increased risks of cancers, including of the bladder and colon, and causes damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and central nervous system.
Permissible levels of trihalomethanes in drinking water are limited by the EU drinking water directive and World Health Organisation guidelines.
It is understood that up to 400,000 households in Ireland are affected, including ones in parts Kerry and Cork, Kilkenny city, Waterford, Wicklow, Meath, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal and Galway.
In May 2015, the European Commission initiated a pilot case here due to THMs levels exceeding guidelines in some drinking water supplies.
A spokesman for the Department for Housing confirmed that correspondence had been received and said it would co-operate fully with the commission.
“Irish Water, working closely with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, has developed plans and programmes to address these THM exceedances where they have arisen,” he said.
“These plans were communicated to the commission as part of the response to the pilot case.
“The commission informed the department last week that it has closed the pilot case but with the intention of further treatment.”
Irish Water said it was unaware of the commission’s response, but the company has already committed to addressing areas with THM by 2021.
Its business plan sets out a clear commitment to reduce the number of all schemes on the agency’s remedial action list, including those affected by trihalomethanes, “to zero”.
The wheels of European bureaucracy turn very slow.
One would think that there should have been more urgency considering the deadly consequences of the carcinogenic cocktail in our drinking water, especially in Donegal, one of the more neglected areas in Ireland and in particular Greencastle where levels of thrihalomethanes exceeds accepted levels. We were told that this was going to be fixed by 2017 . Many of our articles show the minimising arguments made by Irish health and Government officials.
Mr Tony Lowes, Friends of the Irish Environment, said"this decision has come six years after we first brought the issue to the Commission's attention". He pointed out his article ' Ireland's Poisoned, Dirty water: the cover-up' written by himself and Malcolm Coxall in 2011.