All of Ireland’s 944 public water supplies must be tested for lead at a defined frequency and must be tested randomly and the latest results indicate that over 99% of samples taken were compliant with the lead standard. That’s according to the Environmental Protection Agency, issued by way of assurance on Monday following the Galway scare on the issue.

The Agency said that since the introduction of the Drinking Water Regulations in March 2007, eleven local authorities had notified the EPA of exceedances of the lead parametric value in relation to 23 out of the 944 public water supplies. Those were in Galway City and County, Limerick, Donegal, Leitrim, Kerry and North Tipperary (Borrisokane and Thurles).

Four of those supplies required restriction in accordance with a public health notice issued. Those notices were issued by the Health Service Executive in respect to Galway City, Ballintra (Donegal), Bruff (Limerick) and Mallow water supplies.

“We met with all local authorities in 2008 to review the quality of their water supplies and advise them of the EPA guidance which must be followed. We have also advised all local authorities that they must carry out lead surveys of their water distribution systems to determine the extent of lead piping in use”, said the EPA statement.

“On Friday last, the EPA wrote to all local authorities advising them of the steps that need to be taken if they become aware of lead levels in excess of the parametric value in a public water supply”.

In the event of an exceedence the local authority is required to: consult with the Health Service Executive to determine whether there is a potential danger to human health; restrict or prohibit use of water or take other action to protect consumers, if such a potential danger to human health exists; ensure consumers are informed of the above actions; and ensure the EPA is promptly notified.

Remedial action can include: resampling and sampling of a larger area; investigating the cause of the failure; additional water treatment; and pipe replacement.

“If customers have any concerns about their water supply they should contact their local authority”, the EPA advises. “In the event that appropriate action is not taken the EPA can direct a local authority to take the appropriate action to prevent, limit, abate or eliminate risk to human health. Failure to comply with a Direction is a prosecutable offence”.