Greencastle Residents dispute Donegal's HSE drinking water test

Residents in Greencastle are questioning the integrity of recent tests result received from the HSE, Donegal, which were carried out on drinking water in the area. The tests were done on 18th January 2017 by the Public Analysis Laboratory, Galway from samples taken on 16th January. 

Residents are not happy with the thoroughness of the tests, the method and scope of sampling and the chemical parameters that were tested.  For example there is no mention THMs (trihalomethanes), a chemical compound that the residents were particularly worried about and many other chemicals used in drinking water treatment plants.

Ballymacarthur water treatment plant Greencastle Co Donegal.  At the rear there are 3 small sand filter beds. 

Ballymacarthur water treatment plant Greencastle Co Donegal.  At the rear there are 3 small sand filter beds. 

Greencastle and Ballymacarthur treatment plant marked in red

click to view test

This water test came about after a year long campaign by residents over high levels of THMs (thrihalomethances) in drinking water from the Ballymacarthur water treatment plant in the Greencastle area. Residents were alerted to problems in drinking water by an EPA report which stated that 10 water treatment plants in Donegal exceeded THMs limits.

The most recent EPA Remedial Action List , 2016, lists Greencastle as having a total of 203ug/l THMs, the highest in Donegal.  See EPA RAL 2016 (remedial action list)  here

EPA records prior to 2012 also identified exceedance levels of THMs in the Greencastle water and they submitted an remedial action plan in 2011 with a completion date of September 2013 recommended.

This data was taken form   EPA Report for Year 2011

This data was taken form EPA Report for Year 2011

Residents cancer survey

Recently a small survey of incidences of cancers was undertaken by residents in one area of Greencastle.  It found that in one residential area alone where 16 families live, there were 10 known cases of cancer.  Some of these people have died while others are currently receiving treatment.  One local resident, who does not wish to be named said

“We want to know if there is a link between the high levels of THMs in our water supply and the very high rate of cancers in Greencastle.  Surely more in depth studies on this relationship should be undertaken.  We are so worried and need to be assured that chemicals used for treating our water supply is not damaging our health.  We need regular monitoring and tests carried out in a transparent way and they need to be ongoing .  Remedial action must be done immediately.

Lough Fad supplies Moville and Redcastle area.  Photo show low level of water.

A year ago we approached our local council but nothing has been done and our plant remains open. We want this plant which is exceeding THMs limits closed with immediate effect and the correct infrastructure put in place to ensure that our community has clean and safe drinking water.

Water testing was carried out here in recent weeks but we are suspicious the way in which they were done.   At the time of the test, water was being pumped in advance from Lough Fad to deliberately dilute the concentration of Thms further down towards Greencastle.  As predicted, the results from the HSE were within the normal range.

This photograph of Lough Fad taken earlier this week shows water levels at an all time low. It is obvious that the reservoir cannot sustain the Greencastle supply in addition to its normal supply and as a result will have to stop pumping to Greencastle. This means that the level of THMs will return to the EPA’s stated dangerously high levels.”


Helen Clarke a concerned resident said that they have sent an email to Irish Water pointing out that remedial action is long overdue.  Residents feel that they must be kept informed about any new planned infrastructure, when this will take place, what it entails, when will work be tendered out and the timescale involved.  They want to know what solutions will be put in place while the remedial work is done.   They call on all Councillors, TDs and Senators, to take a proactive interest in this serious health issue and support the Greencastle community in finding an urgent solution.


Mr Enda Craig, a local Moville environmentalist,  who has been highlighting this issue for some time, said that when he was made aware of the test results he contacted the Environmental Health Officer in Buncrana and asked.

"why the water analysis did not contain any mention of tests for Trihalomethane's, (THMs) .  I was told that the tests had been taken at a different location.

The question immediately arises why?  Surely the THM test should have been carried out on the water sample taken in St Paul's park.  Or could it be the HSE wanted to test a water sample at a different location which would be known to contain a substantial percentage of THM compliant Redcastle water which come from Lough Fad.

Click image to enlarge

Why was there no mention of Fluoride in the results from water samples taken in St Paul's park?   If, as Irish Water states, that twenty five per cent of Redcastle water ( which contains Fluoride) is now mixed with the Ballymacarthur supplied water then how come no Fluoride was detected in St Paul's park.

Could it be that the Redcastle water does not get as far as St Paul's park in the first place and that the statement from Irish Water is a hoodwink,  to say the very least. Every way you look at this water testing escapade there is an overwhelming need for further detailed answers. It would never be possible that the HSE has been gambling with people's health in an attempt to cover the fact that the promised infrastructure from Irish Water is already way  behind schedule. Either way let's have some upfront straight answers."


Short history of T rihalomethane/Chlorine in Ireland water treatment

Between 2002 and 2009Ireland was condemned on a number of occasions by the European court of Justice for it’s high levels of E-coli and Cryptosporidium caused by faecal contamination.  Both conditions manifest as a serious form of gastro-intestinal illness in humans that can be fatal.

This European intervention resulted in Ireland introducing chlorine to disinfect the water supply, a cost cutting measure which treated the symptoms rather than the cause.  Ireland was advised against this measure by Europe but ignored the advise.

Chlorine is known to react with organic matter including bog water, faeces, dead animals and can produce trihalomethane (THMs), a known cause of cancer.  Long-term exposure is reported to carry increased risks of cancers, including bladder and colon cancer and can cause damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and the central nervous system. While chlorine suppresses the e-coli bug, it has little effect on Cryptosporidium.  Now the European Commission has confirmed that it will be taking proceedings against Ireland to address the ongoing concerns of THMs in drinking water.



Erin Brockovich calls on Irish Water to publish toxin levels

Environmental activist who inspired film calls for trihalomethanes to be listed on bills

Erin Brockovich speaking at O’Reilly Hall in UCD in 2008. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/ The Irish Times

Erin Brockovich speaking at O’Reilly Hall in UCD in 2008. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/ The Irish Times

Tim O Brien

US environmental campaigner Erin Brockovich has added her voice to calls for Irish Water to publish the levels of water-borne toxins linked to cancers on the bills of some 400,000 affected consumers.

Ms Brockovich, an American legal clerk and environmental activist became a household name after a 1990 film “Erin Brockovich”, starring Julia Roberts. The film detailed her work in exposing Chromium 6 pollution from a gas pipeline in California which was leaking into water supplies.

Following acknowledgement last week by Irish authorities that water borne toxins called trihalomethanes are present in some 79 Irish water supplies, Ms Brockovich added her voice to calls for more prominent information on the problem.

Ms Brockovich and Friends of the Irish Environment want Irish Water to publish trihalomethane levels on consumers’ bills.

Ms Brockovich warned “Irish Cousins” not “to be fooled by this dodge of responsibility and factual sharing of information by your government”.

Last week The Irish Times reported the failure of Friends of the Irish Environment to use the European Commission to force Ireland to inform consumers of these chemical exceedances on their water bills.

In a recent Facebook post Brockovich highlighted the specific danger to pregnant women, writing: “Trihalomethanes are far more dangerous to pregnant women. Studies have demonstrated women exposed to Drinking Water over 80 micrograms/Litre of trihalomethanes expose a greater risk for miscarriage in the first trimester and low birth weight in the second and third trimester... beware of very real “short term” exposure”.

Brockovich linked her comments to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. This study examined the impact of trihalomethanes on pregnant women exposed to contaminated water based on a cross sectional analysis of 56,513 singleton infants born to residents of Massachusetts during 1990.

The results claimed infants exposure to water containing over 80 micrograms were associated with a 32 gramme reduction in birth weight. It also detailed “slight increases in gestational duration” .

Tony Lowes, a Director of Friends of the Irish Environment said only very limited results for water supplies were published on a website by Irish Water. He said many results were “pending” for more than a year.

‘‘Consumers have the right to know on their bill if their water contains THMs over the recommended limit,” Mr. Lowes said.

An Environmental Protection Agency sponsored conference on trihalomethanes has been announced for June 16th, 2016.

The conference organisers point out that Ireland has the highest reported trihalomethane exceedances across the 27 EU Member States.

The conference website is here.

The film ‘Erin Brockovich’ is being shown on TV3 at 9pm on Friday.

Local Inishowen Newspaper reveals Greencastle drinking water scandal

Well done Inishowen Independent for this article.   It is amazing to see the comments coming from Irish Water andthe HSE, especially.  Anyone would think that the HSE are supposed to exist for our protection.  It seems both outfits are intent on minimising what is evidentally a disgraceful revelation that at least 410,000, including 2000 in the Shrove area, have been consuming trihalomethane in their drinking water, a cancerous causing chemical.  And not only that this has been happening for years.  Could we have an investigation please?  Only this will give us some reassurance.

The response from Cllr Farren is absolutely weak .  Instead of representing pathetic comments from Irish Water representatives he should at least call for an immediate investigation and demand, without equivocation, the closure of this outdated plant at Ballymacarthur, Greencastle. 

However, it must be emphasised there is a total blank when it comes to responses to this outrage from all local political representatives.