RTE Prime Time Exposes Cancer Causing Chemicals in Ireland's Drinking Water

An extract from RTE Prime Time, Thursday, March 16, 2017 deals with THMs (trihalomethanes) in Ireland's drinking water.  Up to 400,000 people could be affected by potential cancer causing chemicals.

To read further information on this issue see Friends of the Irish Environment article.   They have been highlighting this issues for a long time.  Or there are many articles on this site which you can search 'Archives' using phrases like Trihalomethanes or Chlorine.

Source: RTE Prime Time March 16 2017


This is a press release from Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) published on Feb 17, 2016. 

To go to the web site click photo

To go to the web site click photo


A campaign in Europe to have Irish Water customers informed of toxic chemicals exceeding the World Health Organisation and European Union safety standards has failed, according to Friends of the Irish Environment.

The environmental lobby group, which specialises in the enforcement of European environmental legislation, has been told by the European Ombudsman that she cannot require the European Commission to force Irish Water to inform consumers on their bill that the water they receive contains levels of trihalomethanes above the EU and WHO permitted levels.

Trihalomethanes are toxic compounds, including chloroform, which occur in drinking water as a result of reaction between organic materials, such as peaty soil, when chlorine is added as a disinfectant. Long-term exposure to THMs include an increased risk of certain cancers, such as bladder and colon; reproductive problems such as miscarriages, birth defects, and low birth rates; and damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

FIE says that ‘trihalomethanes are volatile chemicals that are easily removed by simple carbon filters if the consumer knows that his water contains them. Because they are volatile’, the statement continues, ‘there are particularly dangerous in enclosed areas with poor ventilation, through prolonged showering, bathing, ingestion, or in Jacuzzis, with pregnant women advised in particular to avoid exposure.’

During an investigation of the complaint by FIE the Irish authorities informed the Commission that on the basis of their last review, ‘around 412,000 persons are possibly affected by THM exceedances in 79 public water supply zones’.

While they agreed that ‘there is a need to substantially improve consumer communications in relation to THMs’, they have consistently refused to inform consumers on their bills when the level of trihalomethanes exceeds the WHO and EU recommended levels, instead arguing that all Irish Water customers can find out if their water supplies exceed the limit through their website, which ‘they are informed of through Irish Water billing which reaches over 1.5 million domestic premises’.

FIE Director Tony Lowes said that ‘the Irish Water website only gives consumers a snapshot of the most recent water quality results for their supply and does not include previous readings which may have shown high levels of the toxic chemicals requiring filtration upgrades. Thus, a resident of Enniskerry seeking water quality results will not see that his water is contaminated with these toxic chemicals through the Irish Water site, although the Enniskerry public supply is listed on the EPA Remedial Action List as needing an upgrade to filter trihalomethanes.

While Irish Water suggests that consumers can find further information on the EPA website’s ‘Remedial Action List’, in fact this list omits supplies covering almost 150,000 of the 412,000 consumers affected.

Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman, wrote to the organisation that ‘I appreciate that not all customers of the Irish water service (ʺIrish Waterʺ) will be satisfied with the approach to information provision proposed by the Irish authorities. Some customers may prefer to be informed directly rather than having to consult a website. And of course there will be customers for whom consulting a website proves either difficult or not possible.’

Ms O’Reilly said that case law prevented her from requiring the Commission to take legal proceedings against Ireland, suggested the organisation approach the Irish Energy Regulator, who is in charge of complaints against Irish water. The group is also taking legal advice about consumer rights.

Mr Lowes said ‘The core of this problem is land use policies that are allowing the draining of peat soils for forestry, farming, and peat extraction to contaminate drinking water supplies – a problem that is becoming worse as intense rainfall events increase.’

Commission letter refusing to take action


EU Ombudsman letter



Original Friends of the Irish Environment statement and further reading on their website at http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17338-campaign-to-have-water-consumers-warned-of-toxic-chemicals-fails

Top appointment at Irish Water does not suggest thirst for public service reform

Opinion: It’s simple – if you’ve been in charge during a major screw-up you don’t get promoted

Click to Play.  Top appointment at Irish Water does not suggest thirst for public service reform. Video: Darragh Bambrick

Click to Play.  Top appointment at Irish Water does not suggest thirst for public service reform. Video: Darragh Bambrick

Fintan O'Toole
Tues Jan, 2014

The State lacks many things but a sense of humour is not one of them. Just as the head of Irish Water John Tierney was dropping the news that he had spent €50 million on consultants, Brendan Howlin was advertising for submissions to a consultation process on accountability for senior public servants, to “help build trust among citizens that effective and well-informed choices are being made as to how taxpayers’ money is spent”. The comic timing is exquisite.

So here’s my submission to the consultation process: if there were accountability for senior public officials, John Tierney would never have been appointed as managing director of Irish Water. It’s not a complicated rule: if you are in charge of a major screw-up, you shouldn’t get promoted. John Tierney was Dublin city manager from 2006 until last April. On his watch, we had one of the most egregious failures in the recent history of Irish local government: the almighty debacle of the Poolbeg incinerator. The handling of key parts of this project, involving close to €100 million, has been damned by the local government audit service (LGAS) and by the European Commission.

No detailed budgets
The LGAS report on spending by Dublin City Council for 2011 includes a special appendix on the Poolbeg project. It raises very serious concerns about the controls that were exercised in the spending of €80 million of public money (the cost has since risen to over €95 million): “it is evident that the financial management, as part of project management by the Environment and Engineering Department for this project, has been weak. There needed to be evidence of much more comprehensive oversight in monitoring and controlling expenditure. No proper classification of expenditure on an invoice basis was available to account for monies spent on this project at the initial audit stage (April 2012) . . . The lack of financial reports . . . indicated that the financial control procedures in place were not adequate for such a project. There is no evidence of monitoring of detailed budgets or financial forecasts tied into project schedules or that detailed monthly/quarterly reports were examined to control expenditure apart from client representative summary reports and cumulative cost centre reports presented to Dublin City Council Management. It is also noted that the Project Executive Board did not meet on a formal basis and therefore no minutes of meetings were retained.” To summarise: with €80 million of our money at stake, no adequate monitoring of detailed budgets and no minutes of board meetings.

Unlawful spend
One aspect of this lax control is especially relevant to Irish Water: a ballooning and unlawful spend on consultants. The project became a bonanza for a company called RPS Ireland. It was hired in 2001 to provide “client representative” and PR services, long before John Tierney became city manager. But the gold rush continued under his reign. RPS’s contracts in 2001 were for €8.32 million. By the end of 2011, it had been paid €28.44 million, which subsequently rose to €32 million. This includes, for example, €686,344 for “miscellaneous”, €1.9 million for “expenses” and €3 million for “public relations”.

This spending wasn’t just badly monitored, it was unlawful. By 2005, shortly before John Tierney took over, RPS was already receiving over 50 per cent more money than it had contracted for. When this happens, procurement guidelines demand that the contract has to be readvertised. This was not done. Effectively, RPS was awarded an additional contract worth €24 million without any public tendering process.

The European Commission, acting on a complaint from two citizens, Joe McCarthy and Valerie Jennings, found that this created an “illegal situation”.

The building of a replacement terminal for a firm that had to move to accommodate the incinerator was contracted at €11.9 million but the council under John Tierney paid €22 million. But the deal that RPS got is breathtaking in one specific respect: RPS, as a major beneficiary of the project, was also contracted to manage the project’s finances. It was in charge of managing its own expenditure. Even more wonderfully, it seems that one of the things we paid RPS for was defending the awarding of its own unadvertised contracts. Tierney told the LGAS that: “complaints to the Competition Authority and the EU Commission have all required the experience of the Client Representative [RPS] to prepare the responses.”

Damning report
The damning LGAS report was published in November 2012. John Tierney was appointed head of Irish Water in January 2013. Two of his key appointments for his new team at Irish Water had previously worked for RPS. Irish Water’s head of asset management Jerry Grant was managing director of RPS until August 2012. Its head of corporate services Elizabeth Arnett held the same position at RPS until December 2012. John Tierney has stressed that they were appointed through an “open recruitment” process.

Source: Irish Times Jan 14, 2014