Cabinet warned over unsafe levels of chemicals in drinking water

Daily penalties by European Court of Justice possible if Ireland does not act appropriately

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he would bring forward legislation within six weeks to implement the recommendations. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he would bring forward legislation within six weeks to implement the recommendations. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

The Cabinet has been warned of potential infringement proceedings by the European Commission due to dangerous levels of chemicals found in drinking water.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney briefed the meeting on the contents of the final report of the Oireachtas committee on water charges.

Mr Coveney said he would bring forward legislation within six weeks to implement the recommendations.

The issue of refunds is unlikely to be dealt with at this point but a spokesman for the Government said this would be prepared in a budgetary context.

The Minister also informed the Government of the potential for legal action by the commission on the level of trihalomethanes (THMs) in the water system has been closed.

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.

Cancer risks

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.

Source: Irish Times, Sarah Bardon, May 2 2017