EPA: Replacing lead water pipes ‘to take 50 years’ at current rate

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will “take 50 years” to replace lead pipes in Ireland’s water systems at the current rate.

It has urged Irish Water to meet its goals and timeframes while doing its Report on drinking water quality in public supply for 2020.

According to the EPA, the quality of drinking water from public sources is high – over 99.7% of the samples meet the bacteria and chemical limit values.

However, by the end of 2020 there were 46 water supplies at risk – while over 15,500 people had been alert to water shortages for more than a month.

Noel Byrne is a Program Manager in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement.

He said Newstalk Breakfast the report is mixed.

“The report has shown that the water quality is actually very good and that 99.7% of the drinking water standard is adhered to.

“And we also see that the number of endangered shipments identified by the EPA on their list of emergency measures has decreased from 77 to 46.

“However, we are concerned about the future vulnerability of deliveries – there is a problem.”

He says 46 vulnerable supplies, which serve over a million people, needed major improvements at the end of last year.

“Over half of it [works] were postponed in 2020; Similarly, in 2020 there were 75,000 people on tips about boiling water.

“And two-thirds of those notices about boiling water were in effect for more than a month.

“The current rate of lead removal – at the current rate – will take 50 years to resolve this problem, which is really unacceptable.

“So what our report shows today [is] Water is safe to drink, but we need to see Irish Water take the necessary steps to ensure that it will continue to be safe in the future. “

And he says while delays in improvements could be due to a number of factors – including money and planning issues – others are harder to understand.

“The report gives an example, Clonmel-Poulavanogue went from a closing date of 2020 to 2026 – so this is very difficult to understand.

“But Irish Water now has plans with agreed timeframes to move these forward so we need to see how Irish Water complies with them.

“And for all of these delays, they have to identify the cause and fix it because the longer those delays go on, the greater the chances that something will go wrong.”

Main picture: Workers are seen with water pipes in June 2011. Picture by: Cultura Creative RF / Alamy
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